To Frederick catcher Matt Houston, there's nothing like throwing out a runner trying to steal second.

"It's the best thing," said Houston. "You see a guy running . . . and you know the throw is going to be right there. It's a great feeling. It's a good rush."

It's a feeling the 22-year-old has experienced often in his brief minor league career. In his second season in the Orioles organization, Houston is establishing himself as one of the top young defensive catchers in the system.

A first-team National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) all-American in 2003, Houston led Oklahoma City University to a 63-8 record and a runner-up finish in the NAIA tournament. Drafted in the 11th round by the Baltimore Orioles, he left school after his junior year and immediately made an impression in a brief stint with rookie league Bluefield, hitting .280 in 31 games.

Following an equally solid stint at Class A Delmarva, he was promoted to the Keys in late June.

To Denney Crabaugh, his former college coach, Houston's speedy ascent is no surprise.

"He's one of those guys who was going to do something, somehow, some way to help you win that day," Crabaugh said. "He doesn't do really great flashy things, but you watch him over a period of time, day in and day out, and you realize how good he is."

Houston admits he probably needs a bit more consistency at the plate to advance to Class AA Bowie but understands "defense is probably the reason I got drafted."

Perhaps his biggest asset is his right arm.

"As I've gotten older, it's just kind of gotten stronger and stronger, especially compared to when I was a freshman in college," Houston said. "I guess something kind of clicked, and by my sophomore or junior year, I started being able to put a lot more on the ball. My dad was asking me, 'What's your deal? You been working on that?' "