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For 'Knuckler' winner Booty, no time for floating

Former quarterback reports to D-backs camp as a non-roster invitee

For 'Knuckler' winner Booty, no time for floating

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Josh Booty may have won 'The Next Knuckler' competition, but his work has only just begun.

Fresh off beating out former NCAA Division I quarterbacks John David Booty (his brother), Doug Flutie, Ryan Perrilloux and David Greene, Josh Booty reported to D-backs camp as a non-roster invitee.

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When MLB Network pitched the idea of the reality show at a Major League Baseball owners meeting, D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall immediately volunteered to be the team that gave the winner a non-roster invitation.

"I thought it was good brand exposure for the D-backs and just showed again how well we work with MLB," Hall said.

Booty actually showed up to camp on Thursday and worked a bit in the bullpen with former Major League knuckler and current D-backs broadcaster Tom Candiotti.

"He's got the best fastball of any knuckleballer I've ever seen," Candiotti said. "He can flat out throw it."

The estimate was that he threw 88-89 mph during the bullpen session with his fastball.

"With the knuckleball, he can throw it," Candiotti said. "He's got the ability to be able to take the spin off the ball. It's a constant battle for him right now with his mechanics right now, being able to repeat his delivery, because he drifts a little bit."

The D-backs agreed to have Booty in camp and will allow him to at least throw one inning during a Major League game. Past that, he will need to earn anything else he gets. It is possible if he impresses enough that he could wind up getting a spot in the Minor Leagues.

"In my mind, I'm taking it serious," Booty said. "I don't want to come in here and goof off."

Booty has an athletic pedigree. He was drafted fourth overall out of high school as a shortstop by the Marlins in the 1994 First-Year Player Draft. The Marlins inked him to a then-record $1.6 million signing bonus with the stipulation that he not play football.

"I cried the night that I signed the contract," Booty said about having to give up football.

Booty spent 1994-98 in the Marlins system, where he hit .198. He got 30 plate appearances in the big leagues from 1996-98 and hit .269.

In 1999, he left baseball and went to Louisiana State University, where he played quarterback for two seasons.

In 2001 he was taken in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks and bounced around a few organizations, mainly on the practice squads.

Now, at age 37, he's hoping for one more shot.

"It's kind of writing the last chapter," Booty said. "I've been close a few times. This is like I'm a rookie for the third time. If I was able to get on the field, I mean it's crazy. I'm just going to have fun with it to be honest with you and get myself in shape so that I have a chance and keep it simple."

Not many players attempt comebacks at his age, but his athletic prowess and ability to throw a knuckleball mean he can't totally be counted out.

"Yeah, I'm 37 years old, but I don't have any wear and tear on my arm and my shoulder and I never got hurt because in the NFL I was a backup the whole time," Booty said. "I feel comfortable and my arm is healthy and I think I can get it back to where I was when I was in my 20s."

While the show finished taping three weeks ago, the final episode aired Thursday night. Ever since he knew he won the competition, Booty has been throwing long toss and trying to get his body in better shape.

Two weeks ago, he spent a week with former knuckler Charlie Hough in California and last week he was in Florida working with Tim Wakefield, another longtime Major League knuckleball pitcher.

"I know my pitching is a lot better now than it was on that show three or four weeks ago," Booty said. "I've come crazy far in three weeks and if I can get another 10-15 opportunities to throw sides, bullpens, work with [pitching coach Charles Nagy], do some things here with Candiotti ... I think the sky would be the limit."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson threw Booty into a pitching group right away on Friday and said the organization wants to make sure that he's able to handle himself on the mound before sticking him in a game.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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