When Frederick outfielder Chris Carter finished his senior season at Coastal Carolina University in the spring of 2001, his season totals seemed to warrant a draft selection the following month: a .417 average, 75 hits and 45 RBI in 55 games, an on-base percentage of .470 and a slugging percentage of .683.

Instead, the draft came and went without Carter's name being called.

"It came as a surprise. I was one of the top hitters in the country that year," said the 25-year-old Morris County, N.J., native.

"The only thing that we could ever come up with was that I [played designated hitter] the entire year, so it didn't give me a chance to play the field and show what I can do out there also."

Carter spent four years at Coastal Carolina and earned a degree in marketing. But his dream was to play pro ball. So Carter signed on with the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Kings of the independent Frontier League, where he played, among other places, on two of the ballfields used in the movie "A League of Their Own." At Kalamazoo, Carter hit .329 in 2002 and .364 last year.

"That gave me chance to go and play every day, and prove myself for a year and a half," Carter said. "I put up good numbers, the Orioles liked what they saw and they took a chance on me."

Baltimore signed Carter to a contract last August and he hit .283 that month for lower Class A Delmarva. This spring, he was promoted to Class A Frederick and, except for two short stints at Delmarva, has been a Keys regular. Entering last night's game against Lynchburg, he was hitting .271 in 60 games.

But Carter, who has spent most of his time with the Keys in left field, has been plagued by strikeouts (one per every three at-bats). He knows that won't get the job done.

"They need me to hit," he said. "When I was signed I was told they needed me to hit."