At this past weekend’s Army-Navy football game, we learned that the White House had passed an executive order reinstating the rule that athletes from military institutions could apply for a waiver to put off their mandatory service time to pursue a career as a professional athlete. This was big news for the Red Sox who, of course, selected Navy standout Noah Song with their fourth round pick in this past summer’s draft. Song was a borderline first round talent with big upside, and he came out and dominated in short-season ball after being drafted. He also stood out while playing for Team USA in the fall’s Premier12 tournament.
Song was originally supposed to report to flight school in Pensacola, Florida in November, but had that pushed back due to the Premier12 tournament. When this executive order was drafted that month, Song put in his request. We learned on Tuesday through reporting from Bill Wagner of the Capital Gazette that the Red Sox prospect’s request was denied. He will report to Pensacola in January and will be able to reapply again in two years. The reason for his denial is that it is supposed to start for the class of 2020. Song graduated this past summer.
It goes without saying that this is a huge blow for the Red Sox and for Song himself. For the latter, he says he has accepted this and is ready and eager to report to flight school and serve his country. I have no doubt this is true based on everything I’ve ever heard about him. That said, it is already hard enough to become a major-league pitcher. Having to do it after two years off is overkill.
On the Red Sox side, they obviously knew there was risk here. This is why he fell to the fourth round in the first place. That said, there was an air of optimism, at least among fans, that this executive order would come through and Song would be able to put his military commitment on hold. Boston is in desperate need of help in their farm system, and Song looked like a potential bet to help improve that.
For what it’s worth, Sara Kelm, who represented Song in his post-draft negotiations, did leave the door open, saying “You never know what will happen tomorrow. Things can change.” For now, though, it looks like we’ll be waiting two years for Song to resume his playing career.
Furthermore, right as I was about to publish this, Alex Speier came in and saved the day. According to Speier, the process is not yet done. The Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense could still change this decision. I will not pretend to be any sort of expert on procedure with respect to the Department of Defense, so I’ll just say we’ll keep an eye out for more news and update as we get it.
Update: Ian Browne says Ben Crockett, the Red Sox director of player development, doesn’t consider this over.