Josh Booty already finds himself in a unique position, but the circumstances surrounding his newfound opportunity may have just gotten even more unusual. While Booty, a now 37 year old former third baseman and former college quarterback, is in camp with the Arizona Diamondbacks after winning MLB Network’s “Next Knuckler” reality competition, he may not actually stand a chance at putting on a Diamondbacks uniform even if he able to put on an impressive performance this spring. It would seem, at least according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, that Booty’s rights technically still belong to the Miami Marlins.
Booty’s non-roster invitation to Spring Training with the D’backs was the reward for learning to throw the best knuckleball in the reality series. Neither the team or the league initially realized that Booty had voluntarily retired from the Marlins while still under contract. According to Rosenthal, nobody caught on until he actually reported to camp last Friday in Arizona. The two teams and league reached an agreement, permitting Booty to remain in camp with the Diamondbacks. However, the Marlins have the right to re-claim him if Arizona considers adding him to their roster at the end of Spring Training. Miami would also get the right to claim Booty should he accept an assignment to the minor leagues with Arizona.
Taken with the 5th overall pick in the 1994 Draft out of high school and awarded a $1.6 Million signing bonus, Booty joined the Marlins with some relatively high expectations that he’d never be able to fulfill. He spent the better part of five seasons in the Marlins system, earning 1,910 PA over 478 games in which he hit a combined .198/.256/.356. He twice (1996 and 1997) flashed 20+ home run power but struggled to develop patience at the plate, striking out nearly six times for every walk.
Despite having not really earned it, Booty received a September callup by the Marlins in each of the 1996 and 1997 seasons but received minimal playing time. He’d begin the 1998 season with the Marlins, getting into 7 games before being sent to the minors for the remainder of the year. Booty appeared in 13 games for the Marlins in his career, hitting just .269/.367/.308 in 30 PA.
Upon walking away from baseball, Booty ultimately returned to his football roots. He enrolled at LSU and quarterbacked the school’s team for two seasons before entering the NFL Draft. He’d get selected in the 6th Round of the 2001 Draft and would spent three years in the league without getting into a single game.
The chances of a 37 year old knuckleball pitcher making a Major League roster have historically been pretty high in baseball’s long history (see Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough, etc.). The chances Booty makes it, as a 37 year old former quarterback who never pitched before, are already slim. If he’s able to miraculously put it all together, however, the Marlins might be the benefactors instead of the Diamondbacks.