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Red Sox draft pick makes Naval Academy history

The Washington Post
Published: 6/4/2019 9:34:13 PM
Modified: 6/4/2019 9:34:07 PM

Navy senior pitcher Noah Song made a lot of history this season in Annapolis, Md.. The 6-foot-4 right-hander from Claremont, Calif., set six program records, including for most career wins (32) and strikeouts (428), led the nation with 161 strikeouts this season and became the Naval Academy’s first player to be named first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

On Tuesday, Song added another highlight to his already sterling resume: The Boston Red Sox drafted him No. 137 overall, the final selection of the fourth round, making Song the highest first-year MLB draft selection in the Naval Academy’s history — by a long shot.

The previous highest pick out of Navy was Stephen Moore, whom the Atlanta Braves selected with the 300th overall pick in 2015.

“What (Song) has done here is unique,” Navy coach Paul Kostacopoulos said Monday. “He’s done some really incredible things. He’s changing the trajectory for what a Navy baseball player can be.”

Navy has had nine first-year player draft selections in program history, the last of which was Luke Gillingham, selected in the 37th round in 2016. The list of Navy alumni who have gone on to actually play in the majors is just two names long: Mitch Harris, who debuted in 2015 for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Nemo Gaines, who debuted in 1921 for the Washington Senators.

While the Naval Academy isn’t a baseball powerhouse, Song’s dominated this season. He finished the year with an 11-1 record, a 1.44 ERA and is a finalist for the Golden Spikes award, given annually to the best amateur player in the country.

Song — who was at home in California when the call informing him he’d been selected came in — graduated last week and is somewhat uncertain about when his career in professional baseball could begin.

There is a longtime policy in place that allows service academy graduates to petition for early release from active duty and serve as reservists, which provides an easier path for pursuing a professional sports career, but those policies can change. Last month, President Donald Trump said he favored allowing service academy athletes to postpone their military obligations until after their sports careers are over.

Right now, all Song knows is that he is planning to report to Pensacola, Fla., on Nov. 1 to start training as a Naval flight officer. After two years, Song may petition to enter the reserves.

He wouldn’t be the only recent Naval Academy graduate to do so; both Keenan Reynolds, who plays in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks, and Joe Cardona, who plays for the New England Patriots, are reservists.

“Oh man, there was a lot of internal conflict, especially junior year. ... There’s a lot of pride that I take in this place, the degree and the service time after, the people, the environment,” Song said. “To leave that environment after you’re saturated in it for four years, it’s hard to step out. As far as the baseball end goes, I always tell people I’ll play baseball as long as anybody will let me, but I’m definitely prepared and ready to go serve my country. ... The Naval Academy has prepared me well for dealing with whatever comes up in the moment.”

Song already has had to change course once during his time in Annapolis. He was accepted into the prestigious Navy pilot program earlier in his college career, but was recently unexpectedly dropped from the program because he is “like 1.5 centimeters too tall,” Song said. He’ll still be a flight officer serving in helicopters, just not sitting at the controls.

What made the news sting a little more was that it wasn’t Song’s overall height that was the problem, it was his sitting height — the measure of his torso starting at the bottom of his spine — that was too long.

“I guess it was OK,” Song said, “because it’s helpful for baseball.”

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