Josh Booty’s high school career was legendary. He was the first high school player to throw for 10,000 career yards which includes 126 touchdowns. His 12,105 total career yards (11,700 passing yards and 405 rushing yards) ranks eighth all time.
He was so good at baseball he was drafted by the Florida Marlins (fifth overall 1994). In five minor league seasons he clubbed 62 home runs and drove in 252. Booty played 13 major league games over the course of three years (96-99).
Once his minor league baseball career was finished, he enrolled at LSU and became their starting quarterback from 1999-2000. In two years he threw for 24 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards (3,951). Booty was drafted in 2001 by the Seattle Seahawks and later traded to the Cleveland Browns where he spent three years as a backup.
It’s not that often a multi-sport athlete actually gets to play both sports professionally. Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Brian Jordan are the three that many sports fans can name off the top of their head.
What goes with being a legend? Signing a contract worth $1.6 million while still in high school. When the cameras are off and the fame that goes with being on the field is no longer there, what do you do?
I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Booty, about his athletic achievements, life after sports, an unlikely comeback, and being a part of a unique and unexpected business venture.
The GM’s Perspective: Your high school football career was that of legend. The numbers were so good that Dick Butkus named you to the All-Time National High School All-American team. Joe Namath and John Elway were the other two QB’s mentioned on the All-Time team.
What was the deciding factor that made you choose baseball over football? Was it strictly financial?
Josh Booty: It was 50/50. The opportunity to play at that level and get drafted in the position I was (first round), was very enticing. And of all the teams that could’ve drafted me, I landed with the Florida Marlins. Of course, South Beach or South Florida is not a bad place to live. I was really happy about that. I could’ve got drafted by many other teams, but I always wanted to play for the Marlins even when I was in High School. I knew the Marlins were building something awesome. Owner Wayne Huizenga was one of the wealthiest men in the US, and I knew he was gonna build something special.
The chance to get a big league call-up was what they put in my contract. As a player that’s what you want coming out of high school or college in an amateur draft. You can’t get any better than that. There’s a lot that goes into the contract of a first round draft pick. Not everyone gets that, but I was one of the fortunate players who did. So I was going to be in the big leagues no matter what.
I couldn’t turn it down because that was my dream since I was a kid. And to have that in my contract, it was perfect. It was unheard of at the time.
That’s probably when I started putting all the pressure on myself to get to the big leagues, and to try so hard. I knew I was gonna be up there, and once that happened I wanted to produce.
GMs: At the time Marlins’ general manager, Dave Dombrowski called you a multi-tool prospect with power, range, arm strength, and speed. With all these expectations, how could you or how can any athlete in that situation not feel the pressure to succeed?
JB: I probably put more pressure on myself than Dombrowski did. Baseball is so much different than football because once you get drafted in football you’re in the NFL and you have to produce in Week 1. In baseball, you have the minor leagues to help you get to where you need to be. There are different levels. It’s just a different deal. So, coming out of high school yes you’re young, but you have A ball, AA, AAA to try to improve.
It a completely different animal, and I put all the pressure on myself. They wanted to see me get better every month, every year, and get to be a better player. I was so young. I wanted to be Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds right when I stepped onto the minor league field. You’re not gonna be Barry Bonds over night. I put more pressure on myself to hit 40 homers and not make an error in the field, when I should’ve concentrated on one pitch at a time. I think I would have had more success. I still had a wonderful time going up the ladder and doing all the things a minor league baseball player does.
Professional sports are a business. Those guys can see another player in a different city on a different team. They can want that guy and trade you away then next day, all the while, you are thinking you could’ve have been their starting third baseman for the next ten years. You just have to play your heart out, and get better every day. It doesn’t matter where you fall on the ladder of importance; you want to be one of those 30 starting third basemen.
GMs: You hear about that all time. Kids are drafted at such a young age, and they’re not mentally ready for what’s ahead of them. It takes them a few years to figure out what the game is about. It’s something many experience, but not many talk about it.
JB: There are a lot of great players in the Major Leagues right now. Unfortunately, their first season in the minors doesn’t go as expected because they’re trying to figure out how to be away from home, being in a new city, or hitting with a wooden bat. Coaches could be showing them different techniques, it could be a hundred things. It takes a little while to adjust.
Take Torii Hunter for example, he’s a buddy of mine. He didn’t hit too well his first year in the minor leagues. He was a .200 hitter. All of sudden he figures something out, and being a great athlete, he just took off. That’s what a lot of these great athletes, that become great players end up doing. It takes them a certain number of at-bats or a certain number of games played before they understand the game. Their athletic ability takes over from there.
GMs: What’s it like when you know your playing days are over? It’s a day every athlete faces. Sometimes it’s prolonged to unbearable lengths, while others disappear without any notice.
JB: A lot of times the situation you’re in dictates that. I tried to play two sports, and it’s very difficult to play two at the highest level. I would’ve been better off to focus on one. I was a football player growing up my whole life, and my family was a football family, but I enjoyed playing baseball as much as football. When I got the opportunity I knew that the longevity in baseball was better than football, but the more I stayed away from football and played baseball, the more I wanted to play football.
I guess the grass is always greener on the other side until you get there.
The NFL is a bigger business than Major League Baseball. It’s hard to play two at the highest level, and not that many men have been able to do that, especially if you’re a quarterback. Football is so demanding you can’t do both. It’s impossible with what’s expected of you. I played a little bit of both, but I didn’t play a whole lot of either one because I was trying to do both and it’s exhausting.
GMs: Your achievements are very impressive, but many will focus on the negatives. What can you say to those people who say those expectations have not have been met?
JB: It’s very difficult. Just to get one day in the big leagues is tough enough, but to get drafted in two sports, and to play in the SEC (All-Conference), is amazing. The SEC is almost like the NFL. It would be very rewarding to be a Hall of Famer in one of the sports, but there are only a handful of men in the history of the world who are Hall of Famers. I would have loved to be in that circle of greatness, but I think I used the gifts that God has given me and the talent He’s given me to get to where I am today.
Of course I would love to still be playing in the NFL, however if you get one hit in the NFL in the wrong place, you could break your neck and not be able to walk for the rest of your life. I’m thankful that I’m healthy, and I feel like I could play right now. I’m healthy, but I’m 38 years old and the older you get, there’s another crop of young guys coming up. It’s unbelievable how big and fast and strong these guys are getting in the game now.
GMs: Recently you competed in “The Next Knuckler” competition that was held on MLB Network beating out your brother and former USC QB John David Booty, Doug Flutie, former Georgia QB David Greene, and former LSU QB Ryan Perrilloux.
You won the competition (thus earning some family bragging rights) and had to opportunity to win a job out of Spring Training.
Can you explain what that experience was like?
JB: It was fun to get back on the field. It was like the Big Break on the Golf Channel, that type of competition/reality show. We all faced hitters and obstacles, and it was just fun to be able to do something like that on camera knowing that it was going to be put on national TV. Having Tim Wakefield actually show you how to throw the knuckleball and also having Charlie Hough step in as a guest host was unreal. They chose quarterbacks because they thought we all had live arms and could be accurate with the baseball.
I was the only one that really played professional baseball, so I had a real leg up with everybody. I was able to win and earn an invitation to Spring Training with the Arizona Diamondbacks. I felt like I threw it good enough to get professional hitters out. I figured that since I played professionally and was never injured, I just had to get it back in shape.
GMs: Amongst your many off the field activities (spokesperson for TrueMRI in Beverly Hills, California, and numerous radio and television commentating work in sports, including Sirius, Fox Sports, ESPN Radio, you’re also involved in the release of Oxygenade, defined as Oxgenade 9+ph: Pure Taste with Superior Alkalinity, for Optimum Hydration.
Can you elaborate on your involvement in the company and what drew you to the project?
JB: We weren’t planning on launching a bottled water company. We had a water purification process and had a humanitarian plan in place where we were going to provide purified water to areas of the world. When we did the testing on the purification of the water, we tested sky high as some of the most pure water that would be on the market today if we were to bottle it. We saw that it was high in ph, and it had 16 times the supplemental oxygen introduced into the water when we did the purification process. We thought we could put this on the shelves and make it a commercial play while using some of that money to help our humanitarian efforts.
I went and got a bunch of athletes involved as investors and we put together a company we are about to launch in January. We’re doing some testing right now and in some areas we’re selling the water. We’re also involved in some education and trials with it in different markets and industries.
GMs: Being that it’s a water developed and endorsed by athletes, who else are you working with on this project?
JB: Usually if you’re getting an entertainer or an athlete involved, you’re actually having to pay them or give them equity in your company to have them represent your product. We’ve actually started this company based on the money that we all put in with guys like Kevin Millar, Gary Sheffield, Tim Wakefield, and Doug Flutie. Those are just some of the names of guys who’ve invested in the company and wrote cheques to be a part of what we’re doing. They really believe in the product and I think that’s an awesome start.