BALTIMORE -- In just over a year, Ryan Flaherty has changed organizations, made his Major League debut and homered in a postseason game.
Yes, it was a good 2012 season for the former Rule 5 Draft pick whom Baltimore acquired from the Cubs -- and was able to keep -- to receive some much-needed infield help. Flaherty hit .273 with a .273 on-base percentage and a .545 slugging percentage in four playoff games this October and has spent his offseason getting more at-bats in the Dominican Winter League as a member of the Leones del Escogido.
The 26-year-old Flaherty recently returned home to Maine for the holidays and took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to MLB.com about adjusting to winter ball, the upcoming season and his favorite Christmas gift.
MLB.com: Manager Buck Showalter made it known at the end of the season that he wanted you to play winter ball and get some more at-bats and steady playing time. Still, it was a long season and it'll be a short winter, especially for you. Is it hard to balance the burnout factor, physically and mentally?
Flaherty: Winter league [ball] has been a great learning experience. I feel every time I get a chance to play, I learn more about myself and the more at-bats I get, I can learn from them. There are definitely times it gets long, but I enjoy playing and am now looking forward to January and the beginning of February, to getting back in the weight room and getting some work there before Spring Training arrives.
MLB.com: This is your first experience in winter ball. What has it been like so far, in terms of adjusting to life there?
Flaherty: It is definitely a different culture down here than it is in the United States. They are very passionate about baseball here. Having some other Americans here with me, such as Buck Britton, has certainly helped in the off time away from the field. I'm excited to be back and eat some American food, though, and spend some time with my family around the holidays.
MLB.com: Small sample size, but you've already played a bunch of positions out there, including a lot of right field. That's a spot you didn't play much coming up in the Minors. Are you getting the sense that the Orioles want you to be able to play the outfield?
Flaherty: I just told the team here wherever they needed me to play, I would play. And how it worked out [with the Leones], we had a ton of infielders and not a lot of outfielders, so I said I could play out there as well.
MLB.com: You took to your Twitter account recently to talk about a pretty cool piece of mail you got. Can you explain it?
Flaherty: I got a letter after the season from our Senator, Olympia Snowe, [who had served 17 years as Maine's Senator], just congratulating the Orioles and myself on a good last season. It was a very nice gesture from her.
MLB.com: Clearly you're quite the celebrity in your home state now. Can you describe what the last year has been like for you personally?
Flaherty: I wouldn't consider myself a celebrity there by any means, but coming from a state that has had few players play professionally, they definitely pull for the local kids. I enjoy going back and seeing younger kids and to show them that kids in the Northeast can play baseball, even when many people say you can't, coming from there.
MLB.com: What are your holiday plans for this year? Any special traditions? Favorite foods?
Flaherty: I'm going to spend it back in Portland with my family. Just hang out, eat tons of food and enjoy being around my family the little time I'm home. I enjoy Italian food the most.
MLB.com: What's the best holiday gift you've gotten?
Flaherty: I got an air hockey table when I was a kid, around 8 years old, and me and my brother played that every night for about three years straight.
MLB.com: And finally, what's on your Christmas list?
Flaherty: I wasn't able to make a Christmas list, being in the Dominican Republic, but [I'm] excited to get going in February and hopefully for another great season in 2013.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.