Crew's 'dork' Boushley made impact on Nashville community

October 9th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- On Sept. 29, two days before his 30th birthday, Caleb Boushley made his Major League debut for the Milwaukee Brewers. The game didn’t mean much to the Brewers – they had already clinched the NL Central – but for Boushley it was a storybook scenario.

Not only did Boushley earn the win, pitching the final 2 1/3 innings in a 4-3, 10-inning triumph over the Cubs, but he did it as a member of the team he grew up rooting for. Boushley’s a native of Hortonsville, Wis., and more than 400 of his family and friends came out to American Family Field to show their support.

Boushley’s debut resonated far beyond the state of Wisconsin, however, as some 565 miles to the south he was cheered on just as vociferously by the Nashville Sounds organization and its fans. Boushley has spent the past two seasons with the Milwaukee Triple-A affiliate, cultivating goodwill both in and outside the ballpark.

Take, for example, this pair of representative occurrences from the waning moments of the Triple-A season. On Sept. 23 the Sounds named Boushley their Community Player of the Year. The following afternoon, he spent some time in the First Horizon Park broadcast booth doing play-by-play.

In other words: Boushley is willing to engage and contribute in meaningful and unorthodox ways while not taking himself too seriously. All par for the course for a self-described “dork.”

“When I look at professional athletes, especially when you see guys interviewed on TV, there’s this coolness about them. Like, ‘I’m the man,’” said Boushley, speaking prior to a Sounds game last month. “Maybe I give off that vibe but when I watch those guys I immediately think they’re so much cooler. So, that’s why I would call myself a dork. In relation to the studs. Maybe a little self-deprecating, but it keeps me humble.”

Boushley pronounces his last name “Bosley,” and at the ballpark he’s almost always referred to as Boz. He picked up that nickname at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he pitched prior to being selected by the San Diego Padres in the 33rd round of the 2017 Draft. The right-hander went on to play three seasons in that organization before the Brewers chose him in the Minor League portion of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft.

“When the Rule 5 happened I didn’t anticipate it working out like that,” said Boushley. “It’s cool to be on the inside of the organization.”

Boushley has spent the past two seasons with the Sounds, making 54 appearances (51 starts). In 2022, following a team vote, he was named their Pitcher of the Year.

“I had never been to the state of Tennessee prior to being with the Sounds,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what day of the week, if you end up on Broadway [Street] it looks like Saturday night. That’s unique and a little bit different than Wisconsin. Yeah, a little bit. But it’s cool. We have great fans here, on the weekends especially. The field is beautiful and the city is awesome.”

Among the Sounds’ front office staff, Boushley quickly cultivated a reputation for saying yes to virtually every community appearance offered to him (hence, his 2023 Community Player of the Year Award).

“It’s, like, an hour of your time to go out and try to make someone’s day or week or whatever,” he said. “I think it’s important that we get back out in the community and show our appreciation, because week in and week out, when we have games here, the community is here to support us.”

Of these community visits, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital made the biggest impression.

“It’s a loose, fun environment. To see the kids come in and we get to take pictures, and their face just lights up,” said Boushley. “I look at myself like, ‘I’m just Caleb, just a dork who happens to play baseball.’ And then these kids see you and you’re some kind of rock star. Especially when Booster’s there with you, the [Sounds] mascot.”

He tries to bring that sense of fun and levity to the ballpark. That can be particularly hard to do at Triple-A, a level filled with veteran players wondering if they’ll ever make it, or make it back, to the Major Leagues.

“There’s a lot on the line, for a lot of guys. It’s a game but it’s also a job and people are trying to provide for their families,” he said. “You want to be professional and you need to take it seriously, but also remembering what makes you the baseball player you are and what makes the game enjoyable for you. Be loose but focused.”

Boushley's magical end to his 2023 season gives him something to build on as he extends his career into his 30s. He’ll be loose. He’ll be focused. And above all – because what other choice is there? - he’ll be himself.

“It’s taken me up until this point to try to get a little comfortable in my skin. I’m still working on it, but I know who I am,” he said. “And I’m okay saying it: I’m a little dorky.”