Mike Buddie: Where Are They Now?
In a professional baseball career that spanned 13 seasons and included 87 big league games pitched over five years, Mike Buddie played for two Yankees teams that won the World Series and played a bit role in a motion picture.
Along the way, Buddie tucked away enough savings from a $75,000 signing bonus in 1992 to a $175,000 World Series share in 1998 to pay for his final semester of schooling at Wake Forest. He then parlayed a communications degree into a career in athletic administration and now oversees 20 men’s and women’s teams as athletic director at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.
“We all played for really good coaches and really bad coaches,” Buddie said. “As I reflect on the really good coaches, to me it was the coaches who communicated really well. They told you what the expectations were and held you accountable. I try to do the same for people who work with me.”
A Yankees fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest, Buddie found himself in the big leagues six years later as a member of one of the greatest teams in baseball history. With Mariano Rivera sidelined by a tweaked hamstring, the righthanded reliever got the call from Triple-A Columbus and from the bullpen in the Yankees’ 1998 home opener.
After starter David Cone got knocked around in the early going, Buddie picked up his first big league victory by not allowing an earned run in 1.1 innings of relief. Yankees trainers carved out the game’s details on a ball for a Buddie keepsake.
“You’d love for that first game ball for your first major league win to be like a 3-2 pitchers’ battle,” Buddie says. “The final score was 17-13. So, there are so many numbers on that ball that . . . it’s staggering.”
During the offseason prior to the 1999 season, Buddie landed an acting role in “For Love of the Game” a love story disguised as a baseball movie starring Kevin Costner. Buddie played the character Jack Spellman, the Yankees’ starting pitcher. He appears in one scene in which Spellman is part of a pitching change. In the filming, Buddie had one speaking line in which he cursed his center fielder for lackadaisical play.
“I remember thinking: Am I going to be embarrassed if this makes it and my grandmother . . . brags to all of her friends that I’m in this movie and I’m dropping f-bombs?” Buddie said. The line was cut.
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Buddie earned approximately $50,000 that winter for filming, and the following season got a basic $1,500 World Series share as a September callup of the World Series-champion Yankees in 1999.
Buddie did not appear in a postseason game for the 1998 or 1999 Yankees.
Then it was on to Milwaukee, where Buddie was introduced to the realities of the major leagues. The Brewers lost 89, 94 and 106 games in his three seasons there from 2000 to 2002, though he got to pitch in more meaningful games.
Upon retiring at age 32 following a 2003 season he spent at Triple-A, Buddie returned to Wake Forest, graduated and then worked in fundraising over the next 10 years, first in the business school and later in the athletic department.
He is in his fourth year as Furman’s athletic director.