'Green light' O'Malley now goes for the extra base for the Salt Lake Bees
Hugh Carey, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Bees infielder Shawn O'Malley has always been known for his speed.
O'Malley's wheels have been on full display at Smith's Ballpark this season. Cruising along the base paths, he's turned singles into doubles and sacrifice bunts into base hits.
When he was younger, however, he was afraid to use his speed.
That fear is now gone.
"I had a lot of pride when I was younger and never wanted to get thrown out," O'Malley said. "So I wasn't as aggressive. I never really got thrown out, but I didn't really trust my speed."
Even with wheels that can produce a time of 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, O'Malley was hesitant to go for the extra base in high school. After O'Malley was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006, though, the franchise's aggressive base-running style rubbed off on the youngster.
"Rickey Henderson was one of the greatest base stealers ever and he had that aggressive mindset," O'Malley said prior to the Bees' 3-1 victory over Sacramento Friday night. "You can't worry about getting thrown out."
In a game against Las Vegas on May 6, that aggressiveness was showcased. With the Bees down by one in the ninth inning, O'Malley tried to steal third, but was caught and Salt Lake lost 7-6.
"I got the green light from (Bees manager Keith Johnson) and I thought I could steal from the back," O'Malley said. "It didn't help that the pitcher is throwing 95 and the catcher makes a great throw."
O'Malley's previous experience with the Rays also provided the opportunity to rub shoulders with baseball legend Don Zimmer, who died this week.
From 1949 until his death, Zimmer either played, coached or managed professional baseball, even stopping in Utah for a season to serve as manager of the Salt Lake team in 1970. Though O'Malley never broke into the big leagues, where Zimmer coached while with the Rays, he had the opportunity on a few occasions to talk with the much-revered coach.
"It was a pure pleasure just to get to meet him," O'Malley said. "He had just a great demeanor and was so knowledgeable about the game. Just a great mind and person."
O'Malley doesn't recall anything specific about the short conversations that he and Zimmer had, but he left them impressed with the coach. Following Zimmer's death, O'Malley took to Twitter and retweeted a number of messages referring to Zimmer as a "legend" and "inspiration."
The two weren't close, but O'Malley is grateful for the chance to have met Zimmer, just like he is grateful the fear of going for the extra base is gone — even if he ends up getting caught from time to time.
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