Hurtubise becomes second West Point alum to play in MLB

May 15th, 2024

PHOENIX -- Even before he started in the big leagues for the Reds in left field on Tuesday, outfielder was already a rarity. Recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Monday, Hurtubise is only the second graduate of West Point to ever reach the big leagues.

Pitcher Chris Rowley appeared in eight games for the Blue Jays in 2017-18.

"I was at West Point when he made his debut," Hurtubise said before Cincinnati played the Diamondbacks. "Immediately, every single person on the team bought a Chris Rowley jersey. We were wearing them around the locker room once we got them. It's super humbling to be from a place like West Point and to be able to represent them not only on the field but off the field as well."

Another Army player, outfielder Walt French, did not graduate from West Point but played for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1923-29.

Had it not been for a change in government policy about pro-athlete exemptions made six months before he graduated, Hurtubise likely wouldn't have been able to play professionally. He was the first baseball player allowed to defer his military service obligation.

Hurtubise can keep playing as long as he has a professional contract and continues to provide positive media exposure for the Army.

"I am kind of blazing my own trail here," said Hurtubise, who went to Zionsville High School outside Indianapolis. "I really have no idea what it's going to look like. I am going to be honored to serve in whatever capacity -- however it looks in the future -- when I am done playing."

Early in his college baseball career, Hurtubise didn't believe playing in the Major Leagues was feasible. And it wasn't just because he was playing at West Point.

"I was a scrawny 150-pound kid. I didn't have any power," he said. "I basically had my one tool, which was speed and that's what got me into Division I baseball."

As a sophomore in 2018, Hurtubise led Division I schools nationwide with 42 stolen bases.

"That's when I had scouts reaching out to me," Hurtubise said. "It had always been a dream of mine as a kid but never did I think it was going to happen. It finally started to hit me that 'Hey, maybe I can do this,' by my junior year. That's when I started putting a lot more focus and emphasis into baseball."

The Mariners selected Hurtubise in the 39th round of the 2019 Draft, but he did not sign. The Reds signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2020.

Hurtubise, who did not hit a home run in college, didn't connect for a homer professionally until nearly two full seasons into his pro career. It came on the final day of the season for Double-A Chattanooga in 2022.

In 2023, Hurtubise batted .330 with a .961 OPS, seven homers, 46 RBIs and 45 stolen bases over 119 games combined for Chattanooga and Louisville. Cincinnati protected him on the 40-man roster after the season.

A right shoulder strain this season limited Hurtubise to nine games for Louisville. He was on a rehab assignment with High-A Dayton. On Monday's off-day, he was at home in Indianapolis doing grocery shopping with his mother. They were planning on a day-late Mother's Day dinner.

TJ Friedl broke his left thumb Sunday and went on the injured list Monday, which prompted the Reds to summon Hurtubise.

"I wasn't expecting it at all. Everybody was in shock," he said.

Instead of meeting Louisville in Columbus and coming off their 7-day IL, Hurtubise caught a flight to Arizona to join the Reds. He debuted as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning of a 6-5 loss to the Diamondbacks. On Tuesday, he went 0-for-2 with two flyouts and then got pinch-hit for in the sixth inning.

"There's a lot of value in the fact that I had to earn each and every step of my career," Hurtubise said. "Nothing was given to me. I had to go out there and prove I could do it. I've had to overcome challenges and struggles throughout my career up to this point. Going into the big leagues now, that's another challenge I'm excited to take head-on."