Knuckleballer Josh Booty makes Diamondbacks camp a reality
February 22, 3:44 pm
Hayden HarrisonBy Hayden Harrison
Going from a reality show to the clubhouse, a 37-year-old former third baseman and quarterback joined the Diamondbacks camp Friday to throw knuckleballs for his third go around as a professional athlete.
“Once your career is done and you’ve exercised all your options, having an opportunity like this is amazing,” non-roster pitcher Josh Booty said. “To come back around, I mean it doesn’t happen.”
Booty embarked on a five-year baseball career as a rookie for the Florida Marlins in 1994, playing in 30 big league games, before turning to football in 2001 and trying his arm as a quarterback for three NFL teams – the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders. That career for the former LSU quarterback ended in 2007 when he was cut by the Raiders.
But thanks to “The Next Knuckler,” a MLB Network reality show to find a former quarterback who can throw the rare knuckleball, Booty won a new opportunity.
“When I got the call to do the show, I was excited,” said Booty, who beat out five former college quarterbacks, including Doug Flutie. They were tutored by former knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
“I knew if I could go in there and compete with other guys I’d have a good chance to win because I had a baseball background compared to everybody else.’’
And, win he did.
Booty said he was excited when he learned the prize awarded to the winner was an invite to spring training with a major league team.
“I wasn’t thinking more about the show,” Booty said. “I was thinking about Arizona Diamondbacks camp. I was thinking the next level.”
The other players welcomed the new face in the clubhouse.
“He’s a baseball guy and everyone here knows that,” non-roster catcher Rod Barajas said. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out of the game. Three, four, five years, if you’re in the clubhouse and we know you’ve gone through the minor leagues and gone through the whole process before, you’re a baseball player and you’re going to fit in and it’s going to be a lot easier transition for you.”
Tom Candiotti, former right-hand pitcher who is known for his knuckleball, is helping Booty with the changeover to baseball. Phil Niekro, a former pitcher famous for his successful knuckleball, helped mentor Candiotti and his knuckleball and now Candiotti is assisting Booty.
“He (Niekro) was like my pitching coach, so I know what Josh kind of feels like,” Candiotti said. “Like you’re on your own, but that’s why I want to be around for him and any questions he has he knows he can call me.”
Outfielder Adam Eaton looks forward to seeing Booty’s knuckler. He’s never faced a knuckleball pitcher before.
“We play the Mets this year, and I’m sure we’ll face R.A. Dickey, so it’ll be good practice for us,” Eaton said. “We’re excited to have him.”
Barajas has faced many knuckleballs and said it can be frustrating.
“There’s a lot of times you see that ball out of his hand and you know it’s going to end up in this one spot,” Barajas said. “You go to swing and it’s a surprise that you don’t make contact. It’s a weird feeling because you know in your mind 100 percent you’re going to hit this ball and the last second it dives, goes sideways, it just does some crazy things.”
Although Booty is old for a rookie, the knuckleball is a pitch that can be thrown well into your 40s, which was proved by Wakefield.
“It’s kind of writing the last chapter,” Booty said. “I’ve been close a few times. I’m a rookie for the third time. If I’m able to get on the field, I mean it’s crazy.”
Post Author: Hayden Harrison.
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