Josh Booty: The Forgotten Two-Sport Athlete

One of the hardest things to do in sports is making it to the highest level of their sport, respectively. The percentage of minor league ballplayers that  make it to the Major Leagues is an abysmal 0.5%, while the amount of NCAA football players that make it to the NFL is just a slightly better average (1.9%).

Obviously, the aforementioned chances are very tough to the point that even the worst player on the roster is considered one of the best players on the planet, considering the percentile that the player is in to begin with. However, even with the lack of success for most, there have been some superhuman-like athletes to excel within both sports; notably Deion Sanders, Christy Mathewson, Bo Jackson, and Jim Thorpe. There are also notable players to be drafted in both, with MLB Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and NFL Hall of Famer John Elway coming straight to mind.

Some players lack success when they get there, and they spend the rest of  their careers in the minor leagues hoping for one more opportunity at The Show. In baseball (and even football to an extent, though that’s much more stable), there’s a lot of turnover. This will lead to a lot of forgotten about athletes; which brings us to Josh Booty.

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3B Josh Booty. (Courtesy of the Miami Marlins)
It obviously takes a special kind of athlete to pull off two sports, and an even more special kind to do it at the two highest levels possible. Drafted 5th overall in 1994 by the Florida Marlins following their first season as a team, he got a $1.6 million signing bonus, setting an MLB record. Immediately getting a lot of hype, Booty was ranked #24 on Baseball America’s Top Prospect list in 1995 ranked the Marlins very best minor league player as their #1 overall prospect. After slugging 26 homeruns in the minor leagues in 1996, the Marlins called him up to the Majors for the very first time on the 24th of September that season.  In his MLB debut, Josh Booty picked up his very first Major League hit and finished off the year hitting .500 in 2 games. Obviously not getting much playing team, he had finally tasted the grand stage after the hard few years that Minor League ballplayers have to go through as a grueling rite of passage while honing their craft.  With a fantastic .667 OBP in 1997, he had an incredible Spring in 1998 and was named the Marlins starting 3B for Opening Day. Booty, seeming to be a quality 3B and stop gap until Miguel Cabrera was Major League material, Booty’s worst nightmare came true, as he flopped at the Major League level.

Hitting .158 on the season, Booty was ultimately released by the Marlins after passing through waivers. He finished his MLB career with an abysmal .269 average on 7 hits, 4 RBI and a whopping 0 homeruns. It was a reality check for him.

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(Courtesy of LSU)
Because the Marlins drafted him out of high school, Booty never got a college education. So while baseball was no longer a viable option, Booty pursued not only a college education, but NCAA football. Much like legendary FSU quarterback Chris Weinke, Booty left baseball at age 25 to go to college in the year 1999. He signed on with Louisiana State University as he played two seasons in the NCAA. Perhaps his best season was in 2000 under legendary NCAA head coach Nick Saban. In ten games with the Tigers, he threw for 2,121 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and a 120.4 QB passer rating before entering the 2001 NFL draft where he was drafted by the Seahawks 177th overall in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL draft. Midway through preseason, in what would hopefully be a launching point for Booty, he was shockingly dealt to the Cleveland Browns—yes, those Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately for Josh Booty, he was their backup quarterback for all three years; never starting a game in Cleveland before announcing his retirement.

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Booty in Diamondbacks Camp, 2013. (Courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks)
Booty made a brief comeback for the NFL in 2007 with the Oakland Raiders, not making the team out of the preseason. After floundering in mad obscurity since high school, he figured that he finally found his calling, or so it seemed. In 2013, the MLB Network hosted a reality series competition called “The Next Knuckler”. It featured a lot of older players reinventing themselves as knuckleball pitchers, and featured Booty winning the competition. Just when he thought he found lightning in a bottle, he had one Spring Training start before being designated to the minors for the season.

Granted his release, Booty has announced his official retirement and has since disappeared. Booty was a fantastic overall athlete, but he’s no Bo. One of the things that can’t cut it in major sports is raw athleticism. You can be the best overall athlete and still be lost on a baseball or football field. Booty, unfortunately, was unable to adapt and use the athleticism to his advantage. One of the biggest flops in both MLB and NFL history, it’s assumed that Booty is just living the luxurious life of most other former athletes.

Jameus Mooney, editor at The Athletes Hub
Twitter: @TheJameus, @HubOfAthletes
(Photo courtesy of LSU)

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