Ross Ohlendorf: Will Work for Free

The Pirates' ace has one up his sleeve.



Pittsburgh Pirates/Dave Arrigo

Last summer, a famous Pittsburgher returned home to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game at PNC Park. Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf was so excited about the chance to meet the honored guest that he asked catcher Jason Jaramillo if he could substitute for him behind home plate for the opening pitch. So who was this Pittsburgh-born celebrity—Dan Marino? Donny Iris? Try Tom Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture. Ohlendorf didn’t want an autograph. He wanted an internship.

“I wanted to do something productive in the off-season, and I thought an internship with the federal government would be a great way to my spend time,” Ohlendorf says. “The Department of Agriculture [USDA] seemed like a great fit.” Typical jock.

At first, Vilsack couldn’t believe that a major-league baseball player was interested in the unpaid position. Then he looked at Ohlendorf’s off-the-field résumé. It includes a degree from Princeton University in operations research and financial engineering, and membership in Sigma Xi, an exclusive, international scientific-research society. Plus, Ohlendorf achieved a college grade-point average (3.75) nearly higher than his 2009 earned-run average (3.92).

Those impressive credentials scored him a two-month internship at the USDA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to study the economic effects of the National Animal Identification System. “The program is designed is to keep better records of animal movement and location, which aids in responses to disease detections in livestock,” Ohlendorf says. See, the man is smart. So smart that he reads history books during downtime in the clubhouse. So smart that his teammates (calculators in hand) try to stump him with rapid-fire questions about square roots and probabilities. But the 6-foot-4-inch right-hander isn’t your typical Ivy League egghead.

“I grew up working on my grandparents’ longhorn cattle ranch near Austin, Texas,” he says. “I’d repair fences, feed the calves and vaccinate cattle.” Ohlendorf even maintains the ranch’s Web site (rockingolonghorns.com) during the baseball season. In exchange for his tech support, the pitcher gets to name some of ranch’s 250-plus cattle—like Cindy Crawford, Yahtzee and Kickapoo.

Ohlendorf had to rely on his blue-collar work ethic when he reported to D.C. in the fall. By day, he worked on cost-benefit analysis—by night, he kept in shape for the baseball season by hitting the running paths around the capital. Fortunately, Ohlendorf isn’t a stranger to working overtime. After being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004, he returned to the grind of economics classes each off-season until he finished his degree in 2006. And what about his 144-page senior thesis that used advanced statistical formulas to calculate the value of major-league rookies? “Oh, I finished that during my second spring training,” Ohlendorf says. Surprise: He aced it. “My parents taught me to work hard and take pride in what I do.”

He aced the internship, too, and was even asked to accompany Secretary Vilsack and first lady Michelle Obama at an event celebrating the HealthierUS Schools Challenge, a competition that promotes healthy nutrition and physical activity in schools. While mum on his post-baseball career plans, Ohlendorf is a man of many hats. The Pirates just hope that he will keep wearing the one with the “P” on it for many years to come.

By the Numbers:

109  >>  Ohlendorf’s strikeout total in 2009; second on the team.

1520 >> SAT score (out of 1600).

9      >> Number of pitches he needed to strike out three batters last season.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

Many Pittsburgh bars have solid beer lists, well-mixed cocktails or a bartender who's handy with a shot and a story. We need more than that. What makes these bars the best?
View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

#pixburgh: A Photographic Experience features images from the Sen. John Heinz History Center vault, which contains close to one million images. The show features a sampling of 400 images from the 1850s through today — including landmarks, fun, folly and floods.
In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

Melia Tourangeau, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, looks to lead the ensemble forward after a discordant strike.
Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Umami sets the bar for izakaya openings in Pittsburgh. But its owners still have steps to take to keep raising the standard.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

See How Chess Made Le’Veon Bell a Better Running Back

See How Chess Made Le’Veon Bell a Better Running Back

Watch the video that reveals Bell’s talents that go beyond the football field.
Viral: Steelers' Most Famous Fight Song Synced to Lights

Viral: Steelers' Most Famous Fight Song Synced to Lights

See how a Leechburg man has transformed his home into the ultimate Pittsburgh Steelers shrine, but we must warn you, the song will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
RMU President Named to College Football Playoff Committee

RMU President Named to College Football Playoff Committee

Chris Howard will help decide which four teams will vie each year for college football’s national championship.
Watch: Preview of Fascinating Rachel Carson Documentary

Watch: Preview of Fascinating Rachel Carson Documentary

Carson, a native of Springdale, is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. She is the subject of a new “American Experience” documentary airing Jan. 24 on PBS.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh Right Now

Many Pittsburgh bars have solid beer lists, well-mixed cocktails or a bartender who's handy with a shot and a story. We need more than that. What makes these bars the best?
View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

View Pittsburgh & Its People From The 1850s Through Today

#pixburgh: A Photographic Experience features images from the Sen. John Heinz History Center vault, which contains close to one million images. The show features a sampling of 400 images from the 1850s through today — including landmarks, fun, folly and floods.
In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

In Concert: What's Next for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra?

Melia Tourangeau, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, looks to lead the ensemble forward after a discordant strike.
Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville

Umami sets the bar for izakaya openings in Pittsburgh. But its owners still have steps to take to keep raising the standard.
Daytripping: Have Musket, Will Travel

Daytripping: Have Musket, Will Travel

The rest is history at ye olde Colonia Williamsburg, the former capital of Virginia and now a restored revolutionary war-era village.
Talk of the Tahn: The Consequences of Trespassing

Talk of the Tahn: The Consequences of Trespassing

I snuck into a steel mill. Bethlehem, Pa. I’d been bragging about how big Pittsburgh’s industrial ruins were when a woman in a bar told me, “Bethlehem’s are bigger.” Size matters.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


See How Chess Made Le’Veon Bell a Better Running Back

See How Chess Made Le’Veon Bell a Better Running Back

Watch the video that reveals Bell’s talents that go beyond the football field.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Restaurant Industry Fundraiser to Aid Injured Chef

Restaurant Industry Fundraiser to Aid Injured Chef

Zach Behm was chef de cuisine at Cure in Upper Lawrenceville at the time of a July car wreck.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


The Trendy New East Liberty Hangout ... Primanti's?

The Trendy New East Liberty Hangout ... Primanti's?

The latest outpost of the popular local chain is housed in the former Verde space in Garfield.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Tomlin Needs to Be Tomlin Against Brady, Belichick

Tomlin Needs to Be Tomlin Against Brady, Belichick

The Steelers are going to have to attack the game to survive it, to grab it by the throat and choke it to the desired conclusion.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Scorsese's Silence Proves Worth the Wait (and the Weight)

Scorsese's Silence Proves Worth the Wait (and the Weight)

Reviews of "Silence," "Live by Night" and "Patriot's Day."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Pittsburgh Romance: How Their Love Survived Long-Distance

Pittsburgh Romance: How Their Love Survived Long-Distance

From coast to coast and continent to continent, these couples showed that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Urban Fit Co. Opening Flagship Shop in Sewickley

Urban Fit Co. Opening Flagship Shop in Sewickley

The locally owned active wear boutique is slated to open in March. Plus, get all the details on Pittsburgh’s new luxury residential real estate firm, Piatt Sotheby’s International Realty.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Pittsburgh Artist’s Work to be Featured at Thiel College

Pittsburgh Artist’s Work to be Featured at Thiel College

Benedict Oddi’s collection “Scouts and Nomads” will be on display in a campus gallery.

Comments