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Conor Bierfeldt looks to rebound within Baltimore Orioles farm system.

POSTED February 17, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Torrington's own Connor Bierfeldt (shown here two years ago as a member of Aberdeen) starts his second full spring training in the Baltimore Orioles farm system. He heads south on Feb 24.

TORRINGTON: February 24, 2015 can’t come soon enough for former Torrington High School baseball star, Conor Bierfeldt.

You see, that’s the day he hits the road to report to sunny and warm (hopefully) Florida two full weeks before he starts his second full spring training as a member of the Baltimore Orioles organization.

Bierfeldt (23), who led the Delmarva Shore Birds (Class A) in home runs (12) and RBI’s (67) a year ago, is regarded as one of the top power hitters in the entire O’s farm system.

After starring at THS and then at Western Connecticut, where he established new offensive records on a weekly basis, the Torrington native continues the dream that most ball players long for, a shot at making the big time.

“Me and a couple of buddies are going down a couple weeks early to get some work done and to get the heck out of the cold,” Bierfeldt said. “We’ll stay at a local hotel until we report to the facility on March 10, the day we are due.”

This business of baseball is all about getting yourself noticed and working on your craft doesn’t always come with instructions. Those who want it bad enough and work the hardest are the ones, more times than not, the ones who make it.  

A year ago, Bierfeldt experienced something he had never before. He struggled, especially when it came to his batting average (.196) and the number of times he struck out (107 in 111 games).

“I have never been that guy who either hits homeruns or strikes out,” Bierfeldt said, “I was always a player who could hit for power while also hitting above .300.”

“It may have been a bit overwhelming,” Bierfeldt said. “People tell you that your first full year is going to be tough, that you’re going to have to mentally grind it out for six months. I may have let it get to me a little bit. You start slow and as a small school draft pick, you just put so much pressure on yourself. You think you have such a short leash.”

“Baseball is a game that you are going to fail at so you have to realize that you take the bad weeks, the bad games even the bad months and just flush it when it ends. Just pick back up again the next month and get rolling.”

After being drafted in June of 2013, the former Raider reported to Aberdeen of the New York Penn League and had a solid short season in which he batted .264 with a dozen home runs and 36 ribbies but the six month grind of the next campaign was a tough one for him.

“It was the first time that I had ever struggled,” Bierfeldt said. “Through high school, college and with the Titans (Torrington Titans of the FCBL), I might struggle for a week or so but never for a month. At times I felt like I couldn’t play baseball.”

Bierfeldt is not the first and certainly won’t be the last to be humbled by a game that if you fail seventy percent of the time, you’re a great player. Getting over the negative thoughts that permeate everything you do is not an easy thing to accomplish but having a terrific support staff around him helps.

“I do have a fantastic support staff,” Bierfeldt said, “My coach from college (John Susi) will text me every single night, good or bad, it’s always positive, it’s always get them next time. After taking an o-fer for three games, I’d go 1 for 4 with a double and he would say ‘okay, that’s it, this is the spark that you need!’”

“Friends and ex-teammates are super supportive,’ Bierfedt said. “My mom dad and brother and are always there for me.”

His brother Shane, a star at Torrington on the diamond and the soccer pitch, is following in his older brothers footsteps at Western.

“My (Delmarva) manager (Ryan Minor) talked to me a couple of times and just told me to slow down, you’re a good baseball player, you’ve shown you’re a good baseball player so we’re not going to cut you tomorrow or anything like that.”

The Orioles director of player development, Brian Graham, also spoke to Bierfeldt on one of his trips to see the team and also lent encouraging words to his young player.

What is the difference between the two levels of Class A ball?

“The higher you get, the better the pitchers get at the nuances,” Bierfeldt said. “I went from Division III at Western to pro ball so I didn’t get to see the small differences. You get adjusted to it but it’s fantastic how good they are at those small things. Like when they throw a fastball inside, they’re probably going to come with a breaking ball down and away. Hitters know that but it’s still so hard not to lunge after that outside pitch.”

When a hitter gets behind at the level he finds himself at, the ability of the pitcher to make his pitch increases dramatically.

“If a batter gets down 0-2, that next pitch, instead of missing three out of ten times,” Bierfeldt said. “Only misses one out of ten times.”

His goal for 2015?

“I just want to play well,” Bierfeldt said. “Not put too much pressure on myself and go step by step. Have a good spring training, hopefully make it to Frederick (the Keys, Carolina League, Class A advanced) which is a step up. If I play well and they keep me there for the whole season, so be it.”

His passion is evident and a number of things drive him forward in his pursuit.

“There’s three things,” Bierfeldt said, “The competition is so much fun. The second thing is the camaraderie. The guys are so much fun. Being on the team and being with the guys 24-7 and not really getting sick of them. The last thing is the crowd. Seeing the kids lined up as you go to the locker room to get your autograph. It’s cool that you are put in the position to make a kids day by giving them a broken bat or a pair of batting gloves.”

With a newfound determination and a short memory, this former Raider is preparing to set out again in search of his dream.

Baseball and warm weather in the Florida sun. Nothing sounds bad about that plan.   

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here