Three years ago, most scouts thought Buster Posey's future was on the mound. Two years ago, he was a standout freshman shortstop at Florida State. Last year, he moved behind the plate and earned second-team All-America honors in just his first season ever catching.
In 2008, Posey turned in one of the finest seasons ever by a college catcher, earning him Baseball America's College Player of the Year award. Heading into super-regionals, Posey led the nation in batting (.468), on-base percentage (.572), slugging (.897), RBIs (86), hits (109) and total bases (209). He was just two behind the national leader in home runs with 24—more than triple his career total heading into the year. And his stellar defense and leadership behind the plate helped carry the Seminoles to the brink of the College World Series for the first time since 2001. That entire package also made Posey the No. 5 overall pick in the draft to the Giants.
We featured Posey in depth earlier this season, so we'll let others do the talking this time. Those who have coached Posey and coached against him, as well as Posey himself, tried to put his historic season in context.
Florida State coach Mike Martin: "I honestly think it was Posey's leadership more than anything else that got us through the regional (after losing the opener to Bucknell). He just has a calmness but yet a firmness about him that filters over to the freshmen. We really have a young club. So it's Posey's leadership more than anything. And of course when the leader produces like he did, it's almost unreal. I wanted to give him the second Bucknell game off from catching—I was going to DH him. He looked me in the eye and said one word: 'What?' Immediately the magic marker wrote '2' beside Posey.
"I guess the most remarkable thing about Buster's year is the desire to have the ball in his hand in the last inning of a one-run game. You'll see guys back off of that that maybe haven't pitched in three weeks. Posey will look you in the eye and say, 'I'm ready.' He is one of a kind. They just don't come along every five years like this guy. I've been here 34 years, I've never had a catcher used as a closer, never had a closer go out there and not give up a run in seven or eight appearances—and each time the game is on the line. He is one special player, and I'm proud to say student-athlete. Because that's what he is, he's a student-athlete.
"Last weekend, his last at-bat in the first Tulane game, we had a lead. I'm standing there where I always do, and I looked up, and everybody was standing up. Sixty-two hundred people. Every single person in the stadium was standing up—screaming for Buster. He had hit two home runs already, and they're all standing up. And I'm thinking, 'My gosh, what kind of pressure must this be on a 21-year old guy?' Then the next night, they're serenading him with a song that a hundred of the Animals (FSU's fans) have written about Buster. They're singing, like: 'Buster Posey, he'll hit a home run or he'll walk, or he'll throw you out.' They're just serenading at the top of their lungs. Then all of a sudden the people pick up on the words. That's some kind of pressure. J.D. Drew did not have a song written about him, and people did not stand up and cheer the whole time he was hitting. It was a special moment in my career to see the reaction of appreciative fans, truly watching one of a kind.
"I've never had a player like Buster Posey. I'm not saying he's the best I've ever had, but I've never had a player like him. And I might not ever have a player like Buster Posey again.
Miami coach Jim Morris: "Well, he destroyed us; he was outstanding. I've heard Mike Martin say he thinks (Posey) might be the best player ever to play at Florida State, and I would have to agree with him, and I've been competing against Florida State for 25 years. Every phase of the game—he can hit, throw, receive, hit home runs—he's just outstanding in every phase."
Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan: "As far as going from a shortstop/righthander and in only two years learning the catching position as well as he has is quite an accomplishment, and not only learning the post but excelling at it is quite amazing. He receives the ball well, it's clean, he's got a strong arm, and on top of that he's added some power to his bat as he's gone along. He's improved in all parts of his game. With his body, there's certainly more room for growth. He's an athletic kid, and who knows how much stronger he can get?
"I think he's certainly separated himself from the rest of the top players in the country. He's just kind of a quiet leader on that team. He's certainly handled the pitching staff very well; he makes them go. He's durable, and to be where he's at now from where he started is pretty amazing."
Tulane coach Rick Jones: "He's an outstanding receiver, he's got a great throwing arm, an accurate throwing arm, and that's why they close with him. When you watch him between innings, you can see he plays the game the right way. His numbers are throwback numbers, to 10 or 15 years ago—you just don't see those kind of numbers anymore, especially in that conference. It was really fun to watch him play in that regional, except that we were playing him. Having coached Jason Varitek for three years, I see a lot of the same qualities: makeup, leadership, he's under control, he just seemed like another coach on the field. It goes past the ability. He's always under control. He's that guy in the middle of the lineup where we say, 'Oh man, I hope he comes up with nobody on.'"
Buster Posey: "It's tough to really reflect on (the season) right now. It's been a whirlwind. It's been a lot of fun, it really has, I've enjoyed it.
"I'd say probably the biggest change for me since I got to Florida State is just my maturity as a player and understanding the game better. Being able to play under Coach Martin for three years and having two years of experience in the Cape, you learn the game a lot better, and I feel like I have a better understanding of the game and how it's played, how it should be played."