Former Navy pitcher Noah Song is returning to professional baseball after a nearly four-year hiatus while completing flight school and serving as a United States Naval Aviator.
Song was released from the remainder of his Navy commitment on Tuesday and will report immediately to the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training complex in Clearwater, Florida.
Contacted by The Capital on Wednesday, Song said the release orders were written last week and Tuesday marked his official separation date. Lieutenant Junior Grade Song will now transfer to the Navy Ready Reserve.
“I’m pretty excited because I was able to accomplish everything I wanted. I said all along I wanted to serve and I also wanted to pursue my dream of reaching the major leagues,” Song said. “I think it’s a win-win all around.”
In December, the Phillies chose Song in the Rule 5 draft, which allows teams to select eligible players who other organizations left off their 40-man rosters. The drafting team is required to keep its selections on its major league roster for a year or offer them back to their original clubs.
That gamble by Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski might pay immediate dividends now that Song has been discharged from his remaining military commitment.
Song heads to spring training knowing he has a long way to go to regain the form that made him a top prospect coming out of Navy.
“I think managing expectations will be pretty important; I have truly taken three years off from pitching competitively,” said Song, noting that he threw on his own with friends whenever possible. “I don’t know what my new ceiling will be, but it will be fun to start working hard and find out.”
While disappointed he won’t be resuming his professional baseball career with the team that drafted him, the Boston Red Sox, Song is grateful to the Phillies for showing faith in his abilities.
“I want to thank the Red Sox for being so patient throughout the whole process,” he said. “I wish things had worked out that I could play in the Boston organization again, but I’m very happy to be with the Phillies.”
[ Former Navy pitcher, Red Sox farmhand Noah Song in limbo, forgotten by U.S. Navy | COMMENTARY ]
Navy coach Paul Kostacopoulos was elated upon hearing the news that Song was resuming his professional baseball career. Kostacopoulos has followed the long saga of the two-time Patriot League Pitcher of the Year and knows it has been a lot of ups and downs.
“I’m happy for Noah because I know his ultimate goal is to pitch in the major leagues,” Kostacopoulos said. “I also have incredible pride for where Noah’s journey has brought him. He’s done what he said as far as going to flight school and serving.”
Song will turn 26 years old in May and Kostacopoulos knows the odds are long after so much time away from baseball. However, he was not about to bet against one of the greatest pitchers in Navy baseball history.
“I know how talented Noah is and the potential he has as a pitcher,” Kostacopoulos said.
The last few years have been a whirlwind for Song, 25, who was one of four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top amateur player, in 2019. He graduated from the Naval Academy in May 2019 and commissioned as a Navy pilot. Less than a month later, he was then selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round as the 137th overall pick of the MLB draft, becoming the highest drafted player in Naval Academy history.
Since Song was on temporary assignment duty at the academy while awaiting orders to report to flight school, the U.S. Navy allowed him to spend two months in summer 2019 playing for the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League, where the 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander posted a 1.06 ERA and allowed just two runs in seven starts. He recorded 19 strikeouts and allowed just five walks in 17 innings while being kept on a strict pitch count after a long senior season at Navy, shoring up his status as one of Boston’s top pitching prospects.
Song submitted a waiver request to the Department of Defense in October 2019 seeking a transfer to the Navy Reserve so he could continue his professional baseball career during the 2020 season. Around the same time, he was granted permission to play for the United States national team in an Olympic-qualifying tournament. Song was the best pitcher on Team USA during the World Baseball-Softball Confederation Premier 12 Tournament, according to several scouts.
After the United States was eliminated by Japan, Song returned to the Naval Academy and was assigned to the Division of Leadership Education and Development.
In April 2020, after waiting six months for the Department of Defense to rule on his waiver request, Song changed his mind. The Claremont, California, native submitted an updated request to pursue flight training after all and put his baseball career on hold.
Song made that decision after learning a new Department of Defense policy permitting service academy graduates to pursue professional sports immediately following graduation could not retroactively be applied to his situation.
Song was ordered to report to flight school at Naval Air Station Pensacola in June 2020, and he completed aviation training in less than a year and received his wings of gold during a ceremony in April 2022. He has been stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville as part of the Fleet Replacement Squadron for the P-8A Poseidon.