Gerald Dempsey Posey III was born on March 27, 1987 in Leesburg, Georgia. (Click here for a complete listing of today's sports birthdays.) His mother, Traci, and father, who goes by Demp, had three more kids after “Buster”—a cherished nickname in the Posey family. Demp had been called Buster as a kid, and he but passed the nickname on to his oldest boy.
Growing up in a quiet town three hours outside Atlanta, Buster and his two younger brothers, Jack and Jess, were always competing at something. His sister, Sam, was no slouch either. She became a fast-pitch softball star. Over the years, all the Posey children grew into talented athletes. Often it’s the younger siblings who rise above the fist child in athletics, but in this case, Buster led the way, regardless of the sport.
The Posey boys liked basketball, in part because their dad had logged a year in college. Buster, however, gravitated toward baseball. He pitched and played every position in Little League and in pickup games at the nearby Dixie Youth Baseball Fields. Every position, that is, except catcher. Buster had a strong right arm and tremendous poise on the mound for a kid. By the time he enrolled at Leesburg High School, he was touching the 90s with his fastball. By the time he graduated, he had added a slider and changeup.
Buster swung a mean bat for the Trojans as well and also excelled in the classroom. His GPA at LHS was almost always in the Top 10 of his class. Scouts began to follow him in hi sophomore year, when he began getting invitations to play in All-Star tournaments. As a junior, he was asked to pitch for the USA Junior Olympic team in Taiwan.
It was on the mound, in fact, that Buster made his reputation at LHS. He dominated opponents whenever he took the hill. Buster was no souch at the plate, either. He batted .544 as a junior and went 10–1 as a pitcher. His grand slam clinched the state championship game for the Trojans.
During Buster‘s senior year, younger brother Jack was a member of the LHS pitching staff. That season, Buster batted .462 with just five strikeouts and a school-record 14 homers. As a pitcher, he had a perfect 12–0 record with an ERA just above 1.00.
Buster was named Georgia’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2005 and ranked among the nation’s Top 20 prospects. A number of collegiate programs scouted him, as did several major league clubs. But Buster let it be known that he intended to play college ball. Even so, the Los Angeles Angels gambled a late-round pick no him, hoping he might change his mind.
The most intriguing offer that came Buster‘s way was from Mike Martin at Florida State. His team had made the NCAA Tournament 28 straight times. More than 50 of Martin’s player had gained All-America recognition, while two—Mike Lloynd and J.D. Drew—had won the Golden Spikes Award. Buster enrolled at FSU and began playing fall ball in 2005.
Buster began his college baseball career as a shortstop. Playing the position for the Seminoles his entire freshman year, he batted .346 with four homers and 48 RBIs in 65 games. The team finished with a 44–21 record, good for second in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The club featured speedster Shane Robinson and power hitters Jack Rye and Dennis Guinn. Tyler Chambliss and Bryan Henry led the starting staff. The Seminoles made it back to the NCAA Tournament but failed to get out of the Regionals.
ON THE RISE
In 2007, Buster found himself playing an unfamiliar position: catcher. His move from shortstop was the suggestion of FSU assistant coach Mike Martin Jr. Martin Sr. was not in love with the idea at first. He had planned to shift Buster to third, believing that his massive lower body would be better suited to a corner position as a pro—assuming he didn’t get drafted as a pitcher.
The move was unusual but not unprecedented. The New York Yankees once converted a middle infielder to catcher in the low minors with great success. Jorge Posada would become an All-Star many times over and help the team win five championships. Martin Jr. had made the same transition as a college player, so he felt his instincts were correct.
The Martins approached the sophomore with the idea at the end of the 2006 fall season. Buster liked it immediately. Not only would it increase his appeal to big league teams, but it addressed FSU’s most glaring need headed into 2007.
One of the schools ’s first games that season was an exhibition against the Philadelphia Phillies. After the game, Charlie Manuel came over to Martin and said it was pretty scary that the best player on the field that day was a college sophomore who’d only been catching for a few weeks. Soon Martin was letting Buster call pitches.
Buster definitely took to the position quickly—so much so that he was the first sophomore ever to be named a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award. That had something to do with his second straight eye-opening performance at the plate. Buster batted .382 with a team-high 65 RBIs. He actually got a chance to meet Bench, who advised him not to over-think when he had a bat in his hands. “Just put your name on the ball,” the Hall of Famer said.
FSU, meanwhile, made the NCAA Tournament for the 30th straight year on the strength of its 24–6 conference record, the best mark in the ACC. The Seminoles were 49–13 overall and finished the year ranked 16th in the nation.
As the 2008 season began, the only soft spot in Buster’s game was his home run stroke. He worked hard in the offseason to turn his all-field gap power into something more. It became obvious early on that he had done that. No matter where teams pitched him, he crushed the ball. Buster nearly pulled off that rarest of feats—an NCAA Triple Crown. He led the nation with a.463 average, 93 RBIs and was just two homers behind Gordon Beckham and Matt Clark, who shared NCAA honors with 28 round-trippers apiece. Buster also led all hitters with an .879 slugging average, .566 on-base percentage, 119 hits and 226 total bases.
Buster practically made a mockery of college baseball. Not only was he impossible to get out, on six occasions when the Seminoles needed to close out a victory, he peeled off his catching gear and took the mound to earn a save. His 1.17 ERA was by far the best on the team.
Florida State won 54 games and made it to the College World Series for the first time since 2001, thanks largely to Buster’s heroics in the Regionals. With the Seminoles one loss away from elimination, he went 8-for-16 with five homers and 13 RBIs. FSU lost twice in the CWS to end its dreams of a national championship.
By this time, of course, the accolades and trophies were pouring in. Buster was a First Team All-American and the winner of virtually every Player of the Year award, including the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser Trophy. His greatest honor may have been the creation of the song “Hail to the Buster,” which the FSU fans sang whenever he stepped into the batter’s box.
Despite his relative inexperience, that spring Buster was regarded as the top catcher in the draft. He was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Giants. Two college players were taken ahead of him, Vanderbilt slugger Pedro Alvarez and lefty Brian Matusz of San Diego. With one more year of college eligibility remaining, Buster had some leverage in his negotiations with San Francisco. As the August signing deadline neared, the Giants anted up with a $6.2 million bonus—the highest in history at the time and $100,000 more than Justin Upton had received in 2005. Buster and Kristin, his high-school sweetheart, got married that winter. She shagged flies for him as he worked out in preparation for spring training.
Buster was assigned to San Francisco’s Class-A team in San Jose to start 2009. He batted .326 with 13 homers in a little over half a season. From there Buster was promoted to the Class-AAA Fresno Grizzlies, where he barely slowed down. He hit .321 with five homers in 121 at-bats before getting the call to join the Giants in early September.
San Francisco was on its way to an 88-win season, but the team would not make the playoffs in the surprisingly powerful NL West. The Giants had great pitching with Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson. The offense, however, lacked punch. The team’s most experienced power hitter was Bengie Molina, who also happened to be the starting catcher. Manager Bruce Bochy resisted the temptation to work Buster into the lineup in the infield, limiting his starts to catcher. He handled himself well behind the plate but met with less success in the batter’s box, collecting a pair of singles in 17 at-bats.
Buster began 2010 back in Fresno. When the Giants failed to solve their power problems over the winter, they were expected to sink in the NL West. But the division turned upside down, with the lowly San Diego Padres sprinting out to an early lead, the Los Angeles Dodgers struggling, and the Colorado Rockies up and down all spring. The Giants, meanwhile, pitched, fielded and hit just well enough to keep San Diego in their crosshairs. During the spring and summer, the team cobbled together the makings of a decent offense, adding Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen and Cody Ross. Bochy also handed leading roles to surprising veterans like Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe and Andres Torres.
MAKING HIS MARK
The team’s most interesting move was the call-up of Buster. In April and May, San Francisco was getting lackluster production out of its two corner infield positions. The plan was for Buster to play a little first, a little third, and a little behind the plate. The Giants hoped he could learn and contribute at the same time. He began with bang, collecting three hits in each of his first two games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Buster followed that with a 10-game hitting streak that included his first home run, off Aaron Harang of the Cincinnati Reds.
Buster quickly gained the respect of opposing pitchers. Whatever adjustments they made in their approach to him, he readjusted almost immediately. He was getting good wood on the ball and driving hits all over the field. More important, Buster gained the trust of the Giants’ pitching staff. He was a more-than-competent catcher who worked with Bochy to get a handle on hitters around the league.
A month after his call-up, Buster was anointed the everyday catcher. In turn, the Giants dealt Molina to the Texas Rangers for bullpen help. Molina had done his job as a veteran presence behind the plate. San Francisco’s pitchers were now performing with the confidence of veterans.
Buster responded to the pressure with one of the greatest hitting displays ever by an NL rookie. During a 10-day stretch—all on the road—he had 19 hits, six homers, 13 RBIs and batted over .500. In a game at Milwaukee, Buster had a pair of homers, including a grand slam.
The Giants crept within a couple of games of the division-lading Padres, and San Francisco fans had a first-year player who was drawing comparisons to Willie McCovey. Indeed, before the month was out, Buster had a 21-game hitting streak—one short of McCovey’s famous 1959 rookie mark. When August began, Buster was his club’s everyday cleanup hitter.
The Giants faded a bit in August, but by September they were back on San Diego’s tail. They caught the Padres on the 10th and battled them all month. On the 21st, with the Giants clinging to a half-game lead, Buster kept his team in first place with an eighth-inning homer to beat the Chicago Cubs, 1–0. In the final game of the year, with the Giants needing a victory to clinch the division, Buster clouted another 8th-inning homer to beat the Padres. It was his 18th of the year.
Buster’s final numbers for 2010 were remarkable. He finished with a .305 average and .505 slugging percentage. In addition to his 18 homers, he had 23 doubles and two triples in 443 plate appearances, while striking out only 55 times. He hit righties and lefties equally well and was as good at the end of games as he was in the early innings. That fall, Buster edged Jason Heyward of the Atalnata Braves in the voting for Rookie of the Year, 129 to 107.
First, however, their teams would do battle in the Division Series. The Braves and Giants played four tense, one-run games, and San Francisco won three of them. Buster reached base eight times in the series. He singled, stole second (his first steal of the year) and scored the only run in Game 1. In Game 3, his sharp grounder plated the winning run in the ninth inning when it was mishandled by Brooks Conrad. In Game 4, Buster scored the winning run during a comeback rally in the seventh inning, sending the Giants to the NLCS for the first time since 2002. They would face the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies quieted Buster’s bat in the first three games of their championship series, but the Giants took two of those games. In Game 4, Buster had his breakout performance of the postseason. He collected four hits, including a pair of doubles, and knocked in two runs. Both of his RBIs came on back-breaking two-out hits off starter Joe Blanton. His biggest hit, however, came in the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied 5–5. Facing Roy Oswalt with one out and Huff on first, Buster fought off several nasty pitches and then poked a single to right, setting up a first and third situation. The next batter, Juan Uribe, won the game with a sacrifice fly.
Actually, the true game-winning play may have taken place in the fifth inning, when Buster snared a short-hop throw from Aaron Rowand and slapped a tag on Carlos Ruiz at the plate. It was a play that Bochy, an ex-catcher, was gushing about afterwards. It limited the damage in an already bug inning for the Phillies and kept the game within reach.
The Phillies stayed alive with a win in Game 5, but that just delayed the inevitable. The Giants captured the pennant two days later with a 3–2 victory.
The last time a rookie catcher batted cleanup for a World Series team was in 1947, when Yogi Berra occupied the four-hole for the New York Yankees. Buster added his name to this short list in Game 1 against the Texas Rangers. When he came to the plate, he looked down to see his old teammate Molina catching for the AL champs. Their dual presence on the field made it the epitome of a win-win trade.
The series was billed as a contest between the San Francisco’s lights-out pitching and lusty hitting of the Rangers. And since good pitching beats good hitting, the slightest series edge was given to the Giants. So of course San Francisco went out and averaged nearly six runs a game, while Texas managed a total of 12 runs in five games. The Giants took the series with relative ease.
Buster was among the many hitting stars, batting .300 for the series. His handling of the pitching staff in baseball’s ultimate pressure cooker was perhaps his more noteworthy achievement. After coming out on top in a Game 1 slugfest, the San Francisco pitching staff allowed only five runs over the final four games—including two shutouts and a 3–1 victory in Game 5. Buster hit his first postseason home run in the eighth inning of Game 4 off Darren O’Day.
The 2011 season held untold promise for Buster and his teammates. However, that all came to an end on May 25, when Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins plowed into him during a violent, 12th-inning home plate collision. Buster fractured his left leg and tore ligaments in his ankle. It was a clean play, but many felt that Cousins could have scored without causing so much damage. When fans began sending Cousins threatening notes, Buster rose to his defense.
Buster was hitting .284 with four homers and 21 RBIs when his season ended. The Giants were in first place, and to their credit they stayed in the hunt until mid-August. They finished 86–76, second in the NL West and out of the Wild Card by four games.
Bochy was mindful of not pushing Buster in 2012, but it became clear early in the year that he was healthy enough to go out and play almost every day. The Giants slotted him at first base about once a week to give him a breather, and he served as DH in three games against AL teams. On a club that struggled to score runs, he was easily the top run-producer. Buster led the Giants with 178 hits, 39 doubles, 24 homers, a .408 on-base percentage and a .549 slugging average.
Buster also earned his first All-Star nod. He started for the NL, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. He caught the first six innings of an 8–0 victory that would end up giving the Giants the home field advantage in the World Series. The MVP of the Mid-Summer Classic was San Francisco newcomer Melky Cabrera. But he was suspended on August 15th for using a performance-enhancing substance. Without Cabrera, who was leading the league in hitting, there was a potential kink in San Francisco ’s pennant hopes. However, the Giants hung tough and built a lead by the end of the month. They won the NL West with a record of 94–68.
Though Cabrera hit .346, he failed to log the requisite number of plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Buster finished at .336 to lead both leagues. Buster feasted on lefties, racking up a .433 average.
The Giants faced the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. After dropping the first two games of the best-of-five series, they recovered to win. In Game 5, Buster slugged a grand slam as part of a six-run fifth inning that boosted San Francisco to victory. Cincinnati had done a good job against him to that point, holding him under .200. Buster followed his 425-foot homer with a game-saving defensive play when he gunned down Jay Bruce at third on a strikeout-throwout play in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Giants also dug themselves a hole against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. San Francisco lost three of the first four games, and then roared back to win the series in seven games. Buster didn’t do at the plate, but he handled the pitching staff beautifully in the final three games, as the Giants allowed just one run.
San Francisco was red-hot heading into the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. The Giants steamrolled to four straight wins and their second championship in three years. Buster clubbed a homer in Game 4, turning a 2–1 deficit into a 3–2 lead. The Tigers tied the score but the Giants won in 10 innings on a single by Marco Scutaro, the MVP of the NLCS. Pable Sandoval, who hit .500 with three homers, was named the MVP of the World Series.
With two championship rings in his first three seasons, Buster has laid a foundation for a Hall of Fame career. Throughout his baseball life, fans, friends and teammates have always been amazed at his ability to do and say the right thing, no matter how crazy the atmosphere. Buster’s goal is simple—to avoid the spotlight and fly under the radar as much as possible. Ironically, that may be the one thing in baseball he will never achieve.
BUSTER THE PLAYER
Perhaps more so than any young player in recent memory, Buster is all-business on and off the field. He takes charge behind the plate and rarely does or says anything that diminishes his growing role as a team leader. In many ways, he reminds fans of Derek Jeter. Buster’s recovery from his horrific left leg injury is testimony to his work ethic.
Buster’s pitch-calling and defense improved dramatically during his rookie season. Bruce Bochy let him call pitches during the heat of a pennant race, and he handled a tricky staff brilliantly. Buster was charged with just one passed ball in 2010, and he threw out more than a third of the runner who tried to steal.
As a hitter, Buster is confident and highly capable. His key at-bat against Roy Oswalt in the NLCS was telling. He took what the veteran righthander gave him.
Buster is a disciplined hitter who doesn’t try to do too much. He takes the ball to right field and has the power to clear the fences there—something that instantly sets him apart from other young catchers. Perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay a young hitter is starting runners when he has two strikes. Bochy has no qualms about doing this when Buster’s at the plate; he is confident Buster will put the ball in play.
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