This carpenter is throwing 99 mph in Red Sox camp

March 18th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Even with a fastball that has been clocked as fast as 99 mph this spring and a cutter that is turning into a weapon, lefty reliever isn’t listed in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 list of Red Sox prospects.

After all, you seldom call a 31-year-old player a prospect. Especially one who just experienced his first Major League Spring Training.

But don’t let that fool you. Booser’s storyline is as unique as it gets. And even though Booser was re-assigned to Minor League camp on Monday morning, he pitched himself onto the radar as someone who can help the Red Sox at some point this season.

“Cam is throwing 98-99 [mph] from the left side,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He was able to land his offspeed pitches for strikes. This started in the second part of the season last year in [Triple-A] Worcester. That’s the reason he was here [in big league camp], and he did an amazing job.”

What is striking about Booser -- who had a 2.25 ERA, eight strikeouts and zero walks over eight innings in seven Spring Training outings -- beyond his stuff is the journey he’s gone through to get to this point.

On Nov. 17, 2017, after several years of dealing with a variety of obstacles (Tommy John surgery, labrum surgery, a broken back following a bike accident, a 50-game suspension for testing positive for marijuana and self-admitted attitude problems), Booser retired from baseball.

This was shortly after the Twins -- the organization with which he spent five years -- tried to convert him to an outfielder. That didn’t take.

“I was so far behind at that point,” said Booser. “I was 25 and hadn’t seen live pitching in a while. I had some stuff going on off the field with some mental stuff and some other things that I needed to figure out, and kind of figure out who I was away from the game.”

Make no mistake about it: This wasn’t a man taking a break. This was a man stepping away from the game.

In fact, Booser stepped into a whole new profession when he returned to his hometown -- carpentry.

“I joined the local carpenters union back in Seattle, Local 41,” said Booser. “I worked for the company that my dad was a part of for a long time. When I originally retired, I thought that was it. I didn't have any plans of coming back.”

How would Booser rate himself as a carpenter?

“I was all right,” Booser said. “I think I’m a better welder than I am a carpenter. I was doing acoustical ceilings, so we did a lot of Amazon buildings, Microsoft buildings. A lot of high rises in downtown Seattle.”

So how did Booser find his way from carpentry back to pro baseball in 2021 with the independent Chicago Dogs?

“I started doing lessons back home with a couple of kids,” Booser said. “In that process, you have to throw with them to get loose a little bit and I was a little tentative when I first started. I was afraid my arm was going to hurt, but it actually felt really good.

“After the kiddos would leave, I would stay in the dark and throw into a net by myself for a couple of months. And through that process, I found out that my arm felt better than it ever had with that time off. One day, I got on the mound and my fastball was pretty good, 97-98 [mph]. So we figured, ‘Let's give it a shot.’ I met with a trainer back home the next day and went out there to [independent] ball in 2021, and it’s been a great journey ever since.”

A year later, the D-backs signed him to a Minor League contract. And prior to the 2023 season, the Red Sox did the same, promoting him to Triple-A Worcester for the first time in his career. By the second half, he was one of the best relievers the WooSox had. Boston re-signed him as a Minor League free agent this offseason, accompanied with the somewhat surprising news he had received an invite to Major League camp.

“I didn’t expect an invitation by any means,” said Booser. “I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity and still am. It's been a really fun journey. And, you know, everybody's got a story.”

Booser hopes the best part of his story is yet to come. That, of course, would be a callup to the Majors.

“I mean, whenever that day comes, if it comes, it'll be out of my hands, but I think my job is to go out there and be the best version of myself each and every day,” Booser said. “I know I might not have my best stuff every day, but if I can be the best competitor I can be and the best teammate I can be, I think I'll put myself in a pretty good position.”