Noah Song, once a top pitching prospect whose Red Sox career was put on pause while he completed flight school for the Navy, has completed his aviation training and applied to the Secretary of the Navy for a service waiver that would allow him to resume his professional career with the Red Sox, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
Song, 24, was taken by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. He was viewed as a first-round talent that year who slipped due to questions about whether he’d be allowed to pursue a pro baseball career.
The righthander pitched briefly for the Lowell Spinners that summer, delivering 17 dominant innings (1.06 ERA, 19 strikeouts), then dazzled out of the bullpen while representing Team USA in the Premier12 international tournament. Evaluators considered him a pitcher with the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter based on a four-pitch mix anchored by a mid- to high-90s fastball.
But while Song applied for a waiver after graduating that would allow him to serve in the reserves while pitching in the Red Sox organization, the Chief Naval Officer (CNO) at the US Naval Academy did not endorse his petition. While Song’s request remained under review by the US Navy, the process of review extended for months amidst ongoing changes in the leadership at both the Department of Defense and in the Navy.
Without resolution more than a year after he’d graduated from the Naval Academy, Song decided to enroll in flight school in the summer of 2020, with hope that he’d reapply for the waiver after getting his wings — something that has now happened.
It’s nearly impossible to say what two years away from organized baseball might mean for Song if he is able to return and pursue a professional baseball career. The Sox have had some contact with him over the course of his aviation training about his limited baseball activity.
“Obviously, flight school is incredibly demanding. That has been his priority throughout. As someone who has always hoped to have a chance to return, I think he’s continued [baseball] activity,” said Red Sox VP Ben Crockett. “We’ve tried to stay in touch with him on that and try to give him some guidance on programming that could fit the best, but obviously, the schedule is unpredictable. But yes, there has been some level of activity.”
It’s believed that Song has once again applied to serve in the reserves while pursuing his baseball career. It remains unknown either when the Secretary of the Navy will make a decision on his waiver application or to guess at what that decision might be.
While several graduates of US military academies have gotten service waivers to pursue professional sports careers before completing their military service obligation, a policy introduced in 2020 gave then-students the right to pursue such waivers — but was deemed by the Naval Academy CNO not to apply retroactively to individuals like Song who had already graduated.
Further, Song’s application for a waiver comes not only after he graduated from the Naval Academy (which carries a standard two-year military service obligation) but after he’d completed flight school — a program that comes with a standard five-year military service obligation.
In 2020, Song made clear that as much as he’d love to pursue a professional baseball career, he viewed the opportunity to serve as a naval aviator as a privilege — describing any outcome as a “Plan A” — with no regrets should the The Navy declines its request for a waiver. Now, he is exploring that possibility again — and the Red Sox would certainly welcome a chance to be part of his future.
“He’s done incredible work to get where he is professionally in flight school. We continue to support him either way,” said Crockett. “Obviously, we’d love to have him back with us if it works out.”
Alex Speier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.