Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty ’14 stood in Dodger Stadium, looking out at 50,000 empty seats waiting to be filled for his upcoming game against the Dodgers. He excused himself; Flaherty needed a moment alone to process his memories of his last game there. In 2013, the Harvard-Westlake baseball program secured its only CIF title with a victory over Marina High School 1-0. Flaherty pitched a complete shutout and drove in the only run of the game with an RBI single.
Flaherty said that he will remember and cherish the CIF final and entire 2013 season for the rest of his life.“We went over there, played, won and had the best night of our lives,” Flaherty said. “It brought everything together. I’m still close with every single one of those guys. It capped off an unbelievable season; it was just special.”
Athletic Director Matt Lacour, the Wolverines’ baseball program head from 2007-15, said that Flaherty’s performance was a key factor to the Wolverines’ victory.
“[Flaherty] was the best player on the field,” Lacour said. “He was dominant on the mound and dominant at the plate as a hitter. He did a lot of things in that game that spurred us on to victory. [The CIF final] was a special night, and you could see the makings of him as a professional athlete down the road.”
Flaherty’s 2013 season was unprecedented. He pitched 89 innings, struck out 112 batters and had a record of 13-0. In addition, he played both shortstop and third base, batting .360 for the year. He earned a place on All-CIF Division I First-Team and Gatorade named him its Gatorade Player of the Year.
As a current Wolverine outfielder and close friend of Flaherty, Pete Crow-Armstrong ’20 noted his athleticism.
“You can tell [Flaherty] is a huge competitor just by talking to him, but it’s a whole different story watching him play,” Crow-Armstrong said. “He’s insanely athletic. He is one of the most freakish athletes ever. He is super long and fluid, it’s just really beautiful to watch.”
Over the course of his career as a Wolverine, Flaherty developed a close relationship with Lacour, largely due to his need to understand the game on a deeper level.
“[Flaherty] had his own thoughts on how he was going to do things,” Lacour said. “He needed to be convinced in order to make to change in his game. You needed to really explain why because he is really smart when it comes things on the baseball field. That required more interaction than the normal high school baseball player.”
Flaherty committed to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill during his sophomore year, but was selected 34th overall in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft soon after graduating high school.
“He got thrown into the professional baseball world really early so he had to rely on a lot of skills he learned in high school, not just physically, but mentally,” Lacour said. “His maturation process as a professional athlete needed to happen fast so it’s especially rewarding for the people that coached him because a lot of things that he’s doing he got from them. His base knowledge and core values were developed when he was here at Harvard-Westlake.”
Flaherty joked about Lacour’s involvement in his career but credited Lacour for shaping him into the player he is today.
“I hate giving Lacour credit, but he had a lot to do with my success,” Flaherty said. “He brought me out of my shell, allowing me to be more aggressive and have a better mentality on the field. For me, it was always just play, play, play and have fun. He was able to, as I got older, help my improve my mentality.”
In addition to learning many lessons on the field from Lacour, Flaherty said he learned a lot of lessons from his peers and teachers as a student. Visual Arts teacher and close friend of Flaherty, Ted Walch, noted Flaherty’s academic drive and strong work ethic with a story from Flaherty’s senior year.
“He was on some team that was playing abroad and with special permission he was two weeks late to school,” Walch said. “The first day he was back was the day of his first physics test and teacher said they would be happy to give him an extension. But he said ‘no I’ll take it’ and he got the best grade. He got a better grade than all the students that had been there for two weeks. That’s Jack.”
Flaherty said he was a quiet student when he came to campus as a new ninth grader. He noted the major lessons he learned in high school.
“Never be afraid to ask questions,” Flaherty said. “Don’t ever feel stupid asking a question, whether it’s in a class or to your friends. If you are curious about something, and you just don’t know, never be afraid to ask questions. Just try to learn more.”
Lacour said Flaherty that, in addition to being exceptional on the field, he was very serious about his academics.
“As a student, he was really well thought of by his teachers,” Lacour said. “He worked hard and was really responsive to instruction. It would be hard for me to think that anybody didn’t like Jack.”
After he was drafted in 2014, Flaherty spent three seasons playing in the St. Louis Cardinals’ Minor League system. In 2017, he had his Major League debut in San Francisco. Walch, Lacour and Flaherty’s family were able to attend the game.
“My debut in San Fran[sisco] didn’t go as well as I hoped but I just tried to stay calm and to get through that first inning,” Flaherty said. “I got through the first inning, took a big deep breath, and said ‘Thank goodness that’s over with’. The rest of the game happened, and it was okay, not great. I wouldn’t have wanted it to have happened any other way.”
In his rookie season, Flaherty pitched 21.1 innings and had a 6.33 ERA. This season, he was in the starting rotation for the Cardinals and pitched 151 innings with a 3.34 ERA. He finished fifth in the voting for National League Rookie of the Year, gaining the most recognition for his Dodger Stadium outing. He pitched six innings, allowed one hit and struck out ten.
“Dodger Stadium was my ‘made it to the big leagues’ moment because that was the moment that I fell in love with the game,” Flaherty said. “I fell in love with baseball. This was all I ever wanted. For me, that was something so special. Just to do it and have those feelings running through me, was something I will never be able to replicate.”
Crow-Armstrong said he got to watch Flaherty develop as a player over the years due to their overlapping baseball careers.
“When I was little and played Little League, he played at the same place as me and his brother was only a few years older than me,” Crow-Armstrong said. “He would umpire some of my games. I got to see him play at Harvard-Westlake before I actually got here. We kept connecting in different ways. I got to know him the best over the last couple years when we both started having our big success.”
Watching Flaherty playing in the Major League was inspirational for him and other current baseball players that want to achieve similar success, Crow-Armstrong said.
“It gives you a sense of confidence seeing someone who came from the same place go do things like he’s doing,” Crow-Armstrong said. “It’s surreal. It is cool to say you have been able to learn from him.”
One of Flaherty’s mentors, Walch said he was incredibly proud of Flaherty and admires him for the humility he has maintained throughout his success.
“As a teacher, there is nothing that makes a teacher happier than when one of your students achieves success or happiness, preferably both, in doing what it is they want to,” Walch said. “Jack is achieving that very thing. This is what he was put on this Earth to do. He brings a lot to us. He adds a lot of luster by not ever ever telling us how important he is. That’s what I love about Jack. I love the guy.”
Looking back at his time in the classroom and playing baseball as a Wolverine, Flaherty said the things he learned were vital to his professional career.
“In baseball, you meet a lot of people day in and day out,” Flaherty said. “Here at Harvard-Westlake, you learn how to handle relationships and how to be good to people. The relationships that I built here and the people I’ve known and how I’ve been able to take those relationships and sustain those relationships has been really special.”
Lacour, Walch and Crow-Armstrong said Flaherty had a great impact on the community and stand as the model student-athlete. As Flaherty looks to the future, he said his goal is to put in consistent hard work.
“I want to be the best version of myself that I can be, and whatever comes with that comes with that,” Flaherty. “I am going to go out and try to make myself better each and every day. When it is all said and done, I want to be able to look back and say I did everything I could.”