Red Sox pitching prospect Noah Song, who was drafted in the fourth round this past summer after concluding a dominant senior season at the Naval Academy, was informed earlier this month that the Chief Naval Officer at the Academy did not endorse his petition for an active-duty waiver of his service academy obligations. Even so, his attempt to pursue a professional baseball career may not have arrived at its terminus.
Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Derrick Ingle said Song’s request is still under review by the Navy.
“No final decision has been made, therefore it would be inappropriate to speculate or comment on the request,” he said.
Song, who told the Capital Gazette about his CNO’s decision, confirmed in a telephone call with the Globe that the Naval Academy did not recommend that he be granted an active-duty waiver. While the Department of Defense recently issued guidelines to permit service academy graduates to pursue professional sports careers should doing so come with a publicity benefit to the armed forces, those guidelines take effect starting with the 2020 graduating classes. Song, as a 2019 graduate, wasn’t covered.
“They basically said that I was not supported by that policy — I wasn’t covered by it,” said Song. “The Naval Academy did not endorse my waiver.”
As such, Song is preparing to report to flight school in Pensacola, Fla., in January. He’d initially been scheduled to do so in November but was granted a delay in order to pitch for Team USA in the Premier12 tournament (an Olympic-qualifying event) in November.
“Right now, I’m trying to get my flight school date as soon as possible. That’s really the next course of action. That’s the plan for Noah Song going forward. I’m just trying to get my life in line,” said Song. “I’m still incredibly excited to get down to flight school. I kind of wish they would have sent me right away once everything was figured out. I’m super-excited to get down there. That’s something that I’m still very, very much looking forward to. As far as the baseball I played this summer and fall, it was a ton of fun. I loved playing. It was awesome. The guys were great. But I knew there was a good chance that it wasn’t going to last forever. I think that made it even more enjoyable for me. I was able to savor every moment, especially traveling internationally.”
Song said that to the best of his knowledge he will spend the next two years in flight school before he next has an opportunity to petition for a military service waiver that would permit him to begin a pro baseball career. He does not believe that the relatively brief periods of leave during his training would allow him the time to train and develop with the Red Sox in parallel with his military obligations.
“Realistically speaking, it’s going to be a straight-shot two years,” said Song. “I’m just planning to get started in flight school and two years down the road we’ll see where everything is, where my body is. We’ll figure stuff out from there. But as of now, I’m just really trying to start on the path first before I worry about what’s so far down the road.”
That said, a source familiar with the military service waiver request process suggested that Song’s efforts to pitch in the Red Sox organization may not have arrived at a dead end. According to that source, while the CNO did not endorse Song’s petition for a waiver, the request to have Song be treated retroactively as falling under the new Department of Defense policy on professional athletes can still be considered.
The decision rests not with the CNO (who issued a recommendation), but instead with the Secretary of the Navy and then, if approved, by the Secretary of Defense — who just this past weekend spoke at the Army-Navy football game of the opportunities being made available to athletes at service academies.
In other words, there is a chance that further consideration will be given to Song’s request for a waiver that would permit him to pursue a pro career while also serving in the military (perhaps, like Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, as a reservist) before an active service commitment following his playing career. That said, while the Red Sox remain hopeful of such an outcome, a team source said that the club will “fully support” Song if he serves the country for two years before he continues his pro career.
If there is still a door open to continuing his playing career and serving in the military simultaneously, Song said that he is unaware of it. The 22-year-old, ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the Red Sox system, suggested that he is working on the assumption that his pitching career is on hold until at least 2022.
“Obviously, anything is possible,” said Song. “There are a lot of people who know more about the process than me. I don’t want to make it seem like I know everything about all this. I’m just delivering the facts as I know them about what I’ve been told.
“[But] with my flight school date coming up so quickly, I’m really just trying to focus on preparing myself as an officer for that. I know I need to be 100 percent committed to that as soon as I get down there. I just don’t really worry about it. If some miraculous thing happens, I’ll deal with it when that time comes, but in my mind it’s definitely out of the picture and I’m not really worried about it.”