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Mr. Ohlendorf goes to Washington

Mr. Ohlendorf goes to Washington

PITTSBURGH -- With Pirates players now in their third week of the offseason, those who didn't go on to play winter ball are now spread out across the country, some spending their afternoons on the golf course, others enjoying time with family, still others just winding down.

And then there's Ross Ohlendorf.

One week after the season ended, Ohlendorf began an eight-week internship with the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. It's a highly unusual endeavor for a professional baseball player, but to those who know Ohlendorf well, his plans to conduct research in conjunction with the National Animal Identification System comes as no surprise.

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"I think for Ross, it's probably the way he's going to relax," manager John Russell said. "It's what he enjoys doing. I think different guys have different ways on how they like to relax. We just have to make sure that he doesn't try to run the country or something."

How Ohlendorf ended up in D.C. is an interesting story in itself. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack grew up in Pittsburgh as a Pirates fan. He was invited to PNC Park this summer to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, which, fittingly, was caught by Ohlendorf, who asked to receive the pitch once he learned that it was Vilsack who was taking the mound.

Ohlendorf talked to Vilsack briefly that day and later contacted him again to ask if he could be put to work this fall. Ohlendorf already had plans to live in the nation's capital since his girlfriend resides there, and he remains interested in the agricultural realm. He helps his family run a cattle ranch in Texas.

"I thought it was going to be a very good opportunity," said Ohlendorf, who will put in 20-hour work weeks tracking diseases in livestock. "It worked out well. I have an interest in it."

This isn't the first time that Ohlendorf has spent his offseason pursuing educational and professional endeavors. The right-hander was drafted by the D-backs in 2004 and spent the next two offseasons completing his degree at Princeton. Ohlendorf majored in Operations Research and Financial Engineering and studied MLB teams' returns on draft-pick signing bonuses.

After the 2006 season, Ohlendorf held an internship in the University of Texas' finance department.

"I think it's a pretty cool opportunity for me to be able to still do internships in areas that I'm interested in," Ohlendorf said. "I can get some experience that can maybe help me when I'm done playing baseball."

Ohlendorf's current internship has him working in the mornings, which affords him plenty of time each afternoon to stay on top of his conditioning program. The timing of the internship works well for Ohlendorf, too, who will be completing his work at about the same time his throwing program picks up this winter.

"I've known guys who go work for a family business. I think it's great," Russell said. "It will be interesting to hear some of the stories he has when he gets done."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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