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Bear Encounter Leaves Ex-Athletics LHP O'Flaherty Feeling That MLB Adrenaline

Former Athletics lefty specialist Eric O'Flaherty found himself on a boat dock Friday with a bear between him and his house. He said it's the first thing since he retired that reminded him of the rush of pitching in a big league game.

Eric O’Flaherty pitched in the Major Leagues for a dozen years, mostly with the Braves, but also with the Mariners for three years and with the A’s for two in 2014-15.

The left-handed reliever is 35 and has been out of the game since 2017, following his second tour of duty with Atlanta.

In all that time, he said he’d never found anything off the field that seemed to have the immediacy of pitching out of a tough spot. That all changed Friday.

A longtime resident of Walla Walla in central Washington, O’Flaherty was on the boat dock not far from his house when he heard someone yelling at him.

Recounting on Twitter, O’Flaherty said “Today my neighbor yelled `Eric! There’s a bear!’”

O’Flaherty said he turned around. He was on his dock. Standing in his yard was a bear. The left-hander said he had nowhere to go.

It was, he suggested, close to the kind of rush he’d feel in the eighth inning of a tight game.

“This is the first thing that’s happened since I retired that has replicated the pressure and adrenaline of pitching in an MLB game,” he wrote.

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Eventually, the bear seemed to decide he had better things to do than to freak out O’Flaherty, and he wandered off.

“The bear leaving felt like getting out of a bases-loaded jam,” O’Flaherty wrote. “An exhilarating high.

“If you wonder why athletes struggle when they retire, it’s because they’ve been injecting “bear encounter” into their veins for 80 percent of their life, and then suddenly have to go cold turkey involuntarily.”

In typical reliever fashion, O’Flaherty wrapped it up by saying he’d be “ready to go tomorrow.”

O’Flaherty was mostly used as a situational lefty in his 12 big-league seasons, pitching in 496 games and throwing just 416.1 innings. He had one decent half-season with the A’s in 2014 with a 2.25 ERA, at which point his career ERA was 2.81. But 2015 saw his number with the A’s jump to 5.91, and that led to a trade to the Mets.

For the final two years of his career, both in Atlanta, his ERA was 7.28. His first five season with the Braves, however, he checked in at 1.99 from 2009-13.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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