Former Navy baseball player Charlie Connolly remains unsigned with four days remaining until the deadline imposed by Major League Baseball, The Capital has learned.
Connolly was a 20th round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Major League Baseball draft held earlier this month. He was taken on July 13 with the last pick (612th overall) of the final round.
Paul Murphy, mid-Atlantic Region scout for the Dodgers, told The Capital on Wednesday that Connolly still had not signed a full two weeks after being drafted. Murphy said the Dodgers were optimistic the deal would get done and cited issues “not related to the organization or Connolly.”
“The Dodgers are being very cooperative and want to work within the parameters in place to make sure this works to the satisfaction of the United States Navy,” he said.
Connolly was commissioned as a surface warfare officer during Naval Academy graduation on May 28 and is currently serving on temporary assignment duty at the Naval Academy. He is scheduled to report to the USS Russell, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer based in San Diego, at some point in November.
According to sources, Connolly wants to sign with the Dodgers then delay his professional career while serving on active duty. Los Angeles could presumably sign Connolly to a contract then place him on the military inactive list, thereby retaining his rights.
The Dodgers have until this Sunday, Aug. 1 to sign Connolly or will lose his rights. Sources told The Capital the Dodgers are in discussions with the Navy to work out an agreement that would allow Connolly to sign a contract even though he is on active duty.
Since Connolly would not start playing in the organization’s minor league system, the arrangement would not violate the Navy’s policy on outside employment.
During his senior year at the academy, Connolly submitted a packet to superiors requesting to delay his active-duty service requirement so he could pursue professional baseball. The Wayne, Pennsylvania, native was hoping to take advantage of a year-old Department of Defense policy that enabled recent service academy graduates to participate in pro sports.
That policy, outlined in “Directive-type Memorandum 19-011, enabled former Navy football player Malcolm Perry to play with the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League during the 2020 season.
However, Connolly and former Navy football player Cameron Kinley were informed three days before graduation that their requests to be considered for the “pro sports option” had been denied. They would later learn that acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker declined to forward their packets to the Secretary of Defense for consideration.
Connolly and Kinley were initially told they had no right to appeal the decision, but that turned out not to be true.
Lieutenant Emily Wilkin, a spokeswoman for the United States Navy, issued a statement to The Capital earlier in July that revealed there were, in fact, “available avenues of review.” After meeting with Navy leadership and learning their options, Kinley elected to proceed with the review while Connolly declined.
Kinley submitted a petition to the Board for Correction of Navy Records (BCNR) claiming the decision to not forward his request to delay commissioning was an error or injustice requiring correction. He sought a reversal of that ruling and relief from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
After reviewing the petition, the Board of Correction of Naval Records made a recommendation, which Harker endorsed and forwarded to the Secretary of Defense.
Austin then rescinded Kinley’s commission, granted his request to delay commissioning and transferred the 2021 Naval Academy graduate to the Individual Ready Reserve with an enlisted status.
Kinley is now enlisted in the Individual Ready Reserve for up to a period of eight years at a grade no higher than E-4, in accordance with Department of Defense instruction. The Memphis, Tennessee native is currently participating in training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom he signed as an undrafted free agent.
If Kinley does not make the NFL, he will be recommissioned and begin serving as a Naval intelligence officer.
Connolly confirmed to The Capital earlier this month that he was presented with the same course of action and declined to submit a petition to the BCNR because he did not want to resign his commission before knowing whether or not he would be drafted.
“Therefore, Connolly remains a commissioned officer carrying out the terms of his existing military commitment. He is currently an ensign assigned to the Naval Academy and will report to his next assignment to start surface warfare officer training,” Wilkin told The Capital in the statement.
Los Angeles drafted Connolly even though its top executives knew he would not be able to play right away. Murphy scouted Connolly thoroughly during his Navy career and believes the 22-year-old has the repertoire to succeed at the pro level.
Connolly, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, projects as a late inning reliever. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander throws the fastball in the 94 to 96 MPH range and possesses above-average breaking pitches.
“Obviously, being a Naval Academy graduate, he’s a young man with a great work ethic and great makeup,” Murphy told The Capital on the day Connolly was drafted. “He has piercing fastball and a real good slider to go along with a bulldog mentality on the mound.”
There is benefit to the Dodgers to have Connolly under contract because the organization would retain his rights for seven years.
Many other former Naval Academy graduates have applied for early release after serving two years of active duty in order to pursue professional sports. Former Navy football player Eric Kettani signed a free agent contract with the New England Patriots after graduating from the academy in 2009 and was placed on the military reserve list for two seasons.
In April 2012, Kettani was granted early release from the Navy so he could play full-time in the NFL. As part of the agreement, Kettani was required to repay roughly $60,000 for the cost of his academy education and serve in the Navy reserves for up to seven years.
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In the past, the Navy only considered applications for early release if the service member was under contract with a professional sports franchise.