Noah Song's waiver to play ball nixed by Navy

December 17th, 2019

BOSTON -- Though pitching prospect Noah Song was informed recently that the Chief of Naval Operations at the Academy did not endorse his petition for an active-duty waiver of his service academy obligations, the Red Sox -- the team that drafted him in the fourth round back in June -- think there’s still a chance he can pursue his baseball career right away.

“We were aware of and understand the lack of endorsement from the Naval Academy and the Chief of Naval Operations as this request moved up the chain of command,” said Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett in an email. “As Noah alluded to, he received a communication from the CNO noting the Academy would decline to endorse his waiver, however he has not yet received a response from the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense.

“Until we hear something definitive from them, both the Red Sox and Noah will remain hopeful that he gets a chance to play for the Red Sox AND serve.

“If Noah has to serve two years, we will fully support him -- his service is important to the team, too. But as of right now, we still believe the opportunity is there for him to play right away and still get the chance to serve his country.”

In an interview with the Annapolis Gazette on Monday, Song sounded resigned to the fact he wouldn’t be able to report to Spring Training with the Red Sox in February, and would have to start a two-year commitment to flight school by January.

But the situation is not completely closed.

“Obviously, anything is possible,” Song told The Boston Globe on Tuesday. “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.”

After getting selected by the Sox in the 2019 MLB Draft, Song spent his summer playing for Class A Short Season Lowell, posting a 1.06 ERA in seven starts, and he also pitched in the Premier12 tournament for the United States, which was vying for a berth in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He appeared in five games, allowing one hit in 5 1/3 innings.

Song is the Red Sox’s 15th-ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

A new order was signed on Nov. 8 by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, allowing athletes from service academies who wanted to go pro to pursue those opportunities as long as they eventually fulfilled their military obligation or repaid the cost of their education.

However, certain specifics of the order mean that it doesn’t apply to Song -- namely that it was signed on Nov. 8 to apply to the Class of 2020 onward, not retroactively covering Song’s own Class of 2019.

Additionally, it states that athletes who do receive the approval would not be commissioned as officers upon graduating -- and Song already was when he graduated, given that none of this was in place.

“They basically said that I was not supported by that policy -- I wasn’t covered by it,” Song told The Globe. “The Naval Academy did not endorse my waiver.”

It remains to be seen what the final communication will be from Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense.