When he was at Sunset Elementary School in Pasadena, Glynn Davis was the fastest runner in his class. He recalls that the school held a field day every year, and he was never defeated in the 100-yard dash.
Davis, 22, is using that speed as a center fielder for the Frederick Keys, the Orioles' Single-A Advanced farm team in the Carolina League.
"As far as I can remember, I have been a fast guy," said Davis, a graduate of Northeast High School. "That is what I have modeled my game after. It is definitely something that is a good tool. I have to use [speed] to my advantage."
That speed has translated into steals. Signed by the Orioles in 2010, Davis began this season with 80 stolen bases in 107 attempts in his minor league career, a success ratio of nearly 75 percent.
But before Davis, a right-handed hitter, can steal bases and score runs, he has to get on base. And that's something he worked on at spring training in Sarasota, Fla., with former big leaguer Jeff Manto, the new minor league hitting coordinator for the Orioles.
"He came up with a new program that helped me. Overall, it made me a better hitter so far," Davis said of Manto, who hit 17 homers for the Orioles in 1995.
Manto watched video of Davis before getting to see him in person in spring training. "I noticed his front leg was really stiff, and he couldn't reach some of the outside pitches," Manto said.
Davis said Manto, 49, stressed using the lower half of his body more as he approached the baseball.
The results seem to be working, as Davis was hitting .343 for Frederick through Wednesday, after posting a batting average of .234 in 364 at-bats last season with the Keys. He also had seven doubles, three triples, a homer and 14 RBI with seven steals in nine tries.
"This year I came in with a different mentality than last year," said Davis, who worked out this winter at Camden Yards with major leaguers such as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Tommy Hunter and Darren O'Day. "I wanted to come in and have fun and not put too much pressure on myself. Last year was a good learning experience for me to go through some struggles."
Davis began this season as the No. 29 prospect in the Baltimore system, according to the publication Baseball America.
"Maturity is the first thing that stands out. You see a player with a lot more confidence," said Brian Graham, the director of player development for the Orioles. "He is more mentally mature. He is handling adversity much better. Glynn is definitely a prospect."
Davis played youth baseball with Marley Park when he was about 4, then a few years later played in Havenwood Park, just a few minutes from his home in Pasadena. He was 9 when he began travel baseball with the Maryland Orioles. With his speed, he was encouraged to run track at Northeast High, but Davis focused on fall and spring baseball and basketball in the winter.
He was signed as a nondrafted free agent in 2010 by the Orioles out of Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville campus, by scouts Dean Albany, a graduate of Brooklyn Park High, and Chris Gale. He had committed to Division I Central Florida but turned that down to sign with the Orioles.
"My situation was kind of different than other guys," said Davis, who did not garner a large signing bonus. "You still want to go out and show and prove that I can compete with these guys. I try to bring my best and show the Orioles than made a good decision in [signing] me."
The outfielder began his pro career in 2011 and played at three levels: the Gulf Coast League, with Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League and with Frederick.
Davis split the 2012 season between low Single-A Delmarva and high Single-A Frederick, where he hit .256 in 82 at-bats with eight steals in nine tries.
This spring, Orioles' third baseman Manny Machado made a minor league rehab appearance with Frederick. Davis and Machado were briefly teammates with the Delmarva Shorebirds in 2011. "He is still the same guy. He is a good guy to be around. He is not going to 'big league' anyone," Davis said. "You can watch how he goes about his day. He is definitely a good guy to talk to."
Davis has a long way to go in order to join Machado at Camden Yards. But if Davis continues to hit — and steal bases — he could put himself in a position to be promoted to Double-A Bowie of the Eastern League. "I would love to get the chance to go there. But that is something I can't control," he said.
Arundel in the big leagues
Davis is not the only Anne Arundel high school product in the Carolina League this spring. Shawn Pleffner, a graduate of Arundel High, is a first baseman for the Potomac Nationals in Woodbridge, Va. He began the season on the disabled list, then made his first appearance of the season in late April.
Pleffner injured his right quad in spring training but is now hitting in the middle of the lineup for Potomac. "As long as I am playing every day, I am happy," Pleffner said before a game at Frederick.
Last year he played for Hagerstown in the South Atlantic League but has moved up a level. "It is like facing college pitchers again," said Pleffner, who played at Division II Tampa. "They will pitch you backward a lot," throwing curveballs in fastball counts.
Other county products in the minor leagues include Josh Hader (Old Mill), who was traded by the Orioles to Houston last July in a deal that brought major league pitcher Bud Norris to Baltimore. Hader, 20, began this season with Lancaster in the Single-A Advanced California League. A left-handed pitcher, he is the No. 14 prospect in the Houston system.
Hader pitched for the Delmarva Shorebirds last year in the Baltimore system before he was traded to the Astros.
Here is look at how baseball players from Anne Arundel County are doing in the minor leagues this season, with statistics through May 11:
Josh Hader (Old Mill High, Houston), pitcher, Lancaster, Single-A Advanced California League: 2-0 with an ERA of 3.03
Jeff Kemp (Archbishop Spalding High, Baltimore), infield, Delmarva, Single-A South Atlantic League: .230 with one homer and 18 RBI
Shawn Pleffner (Arundel, Washington), first base, Potomac, Single-A Advanced Carolina League:.269 with one homer and 7 RBI