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Cam Booser walked away from baseball in 2017 and became a carpenter. Now he’s in the major leagues

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 19th, 2024 5:50pm EDT

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Cam Booser thought he was done with baseball seven years ago.

Turns out, baseball wasn’t done with him.

The left-handed pitcher walked away from the game in 2017, discouraged by a string of injuries from Tommy John surgery to a broken back sustained when he was hit by a car while riding his bike, and self-inflicted wounds like a 50-game drug suspension.

He returned home to Seattle and poured himself into carpentry, working on acoustical ceilings. He was good at it, just not as good as the guys he worked alongside, and he knew it.

All the while, the game he’d dedicated his life to never really left his mind. He’d find himself thinking about it daily during a retirement that turned out to merely be a sabbatical.

By 2021, Booser was back on the mound and pain free. That first throwing session turned into another. Then another. His velocity returned. The discomfort Booser long associated with pitching did not.

And on Friday, Booser’s comeback took another unexpected turn, one he never saw coming during his extended break: a spot in the major leagues.

The Boston Red Sox called up the 31-year-old Booser from Triple-A Worcester, a destination Booser admits he never considered until the moment it happened.

“Yeah, the first part of my career was, by my own doing, pretty bad,” Booser told reporters inside the visiting clubhouse at PNC Park before the Red Sox began a three-game interleague series in Pittsburgh. “I made a few mistakes. But I think when I was able to come back and get a better head on my shoulders, things were a lot more clear.”

Talent has rarely been the issue for Booser, whose fastball regularly clocks in the upper 90s. Control, however, was another matter. He spent four summers toiling around in the low minors for Minnesota, never rising higher than Class A. The Twins tried briefly to convert him into a position player. That didn’t take, either.

Finally, in 2017, Booser walked away. Yet it wasn’t just his mind that couldn’t let go. A friend couldn’t either, pushing Booser to hire a trainer. The trainer began posting video of Booser on social media. The Chicago Dogs, an independent minor-league team, saw enough to offer him a shot in 2021.

The Arizona Diamondbacks took a flier on Booser and put him at Double-A in 2022.

It didn’t take.

Booser was released in July and signed with another independent team before landing in the Red Sox organization in 2023. About midway through last season, something flipped.

The ball went where Booser threw it more often than not, and hitters couldn’t seem to hit it more often than not. Booser was lights out in spring training and even better for Worcester, striking out 15 against just one walk in 6 2/3 innings before he walked into Worcester manager Chad Tracy’s office on Thursday.

Tracy asked Booser if he was ready to throw. Booser said of course and only semi-jokingly volunteered to start. Tracy had another idea. How about pitching in Pittsburgh?

At first, it didn’t compute.

“It didn’t resonate with him, right?” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was listening in. “Like, ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, for Alex in Pittsburgh’ and that’s when he let the emotions go.”

Cora thinks Booser has evolved into more than a lefty-on-lefty specialist. While Cora isn’t sure Booser will be able to maintain his “crazy” strikeout rate in the majors, he’s not worried about Booser’s stuff playing.

“We expect him to do big things for,” Cora said.

And if Booser’s arrival provides a reminder to the rest of the roster about the importance of perseverance and faith, all the better.

“To make it to the big leagues, there’s different ways right, different journeys,” Cora said. “And his is a lot different than a lot of people.”


AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB

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The Associated Press