Josh Booty Wins MLB's 'The Next Knuckler,' Earns Invite to D-Backs Spring Camp
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Former LSU quarterback Josh Booty won MLB Network's first reality series, "The Next Knuckler" to secure a non-roster invitation to Arizona's Spring Training camp (via MLB.com).
For the 37-year-old Booty, the return to spring ball marks a second chance at the sport.
Booty was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the first round (fifth overall) of the 1994 amateur draft.
After posting a cumulative .198 batting average and .613 OPS during five years in the Marlins' minor league system, he made brief appearances on the MLB roster, appearing in 13 games at Pro Player Stadium.
He last saw action on a big league field nearly 15 years ago on April 11, 1998, at the age of 22.
Booty then joined the LSU football team, serving as quarterback through the turn of the century before earning the Seattle Seahawks' sixth-round draft selection in the 2001 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, that career didn't quite pan out either.
Enter "The Next Knuckler" and a second chance at professional sports.
Penned as former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield's quest to "continue the knuckleball legacy," the competition featured former NCAA Division I football quarterbacks Doug Flutie (Boston College), David Greene (Georgia) and Ryan Perrilloux (LSU & Jacksonville State), who all joined Booty and his younger brother John David (USC) in a quest to capture an invitation to the Diamondbacks' Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Wakefield retired following the 2011 season at the age of 44—seven years older than Booty—proving that the craft of knuckleball pitching has no age limit.
With former Mets knuckler and NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey gradually finding his way into the American League, baseball's senior circuit will be without a dominating knuckleballer in 2013, giving Arizona a possible edge.
Club president and CEO Derrick Hall described the unique pitch's mystique when the series began: "With a knuckleball, you never know what kind of success a pitcher will have and that's part of the intrigue for our franchise to take part in this reality show."
Whether it works out for Arizona and for Booty or not, baseball's attempt at regalvanizing the league with the so-called butterfly ball is now underway.
How long the grand experiment will last, however, is about as certain as a knuckleball's final resting place.
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