By the end of the 2009 Cal Poly baseball season, third baseman Adam Buschini was a can’t-miss prospect.
He’d helped the Mustangs to their first berth in an NCAA Regional. He was the owner of the highest batting average in Division I program history. He was taken by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fourth round of the MLB Draft.
Then he missed.
The roots of his release from Major League affiliation after two professional seasons grew out of that first at-bat on opening night for Cal Poly in 2009. A broken hand that never healed properly robbed him of cartilage, power and bat control over the next couple years.
But Buschini never gave up on making it back, and when he starts at second base for the Canberra Cavalry in the Australian Baseball League championship series against Sydney today, he’ll do so knowing a job with the San Diego Padres organization awaits his return to the United States.
“It definitely is hard” to get noticed after being released, Buschini said. “There’s so many good players out there. The competition’s tough. Just for the opportunity to get back, I definitely feel blessed, that they took a chance on me.
Perhaps appropriately, his final games with Canberra, where he became the first player to win the ABL triple crown, will be televised on MLB Network with the opening game scheduled for 10 a.m. and Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests in the best-of-three series scheduled for noon.
Buschini led the league with a .363 batting average, a league record-tying 15 home runs and an ABL record-breaking 50 RBI in 45 games.
At Cal Poly, Buschini was a career .336 hitter from 2006-09, and in his final season with the Mustangs, he batted a program-best .422.
Few talked about the broken bone in his hand as he seemingly came up with every big hit on the road to the Tempe (Ariz.) Regional.
When he got to the Phillies’ farm team, Low-A Williamsport of the New York Penn League, Buschini hit .228 in 52 games that summer.
He said he avoided having surgery to show the organization he could play through the pain if it meant helping the team.
Only, he wasn’t helping at the level it expected.
In 2010, Buschini hit .219 with just two home runs in 82 games with Lakewood, Philadelphia’s single-A affiliate.
He finally had surgery, but it was too late. The Phillies let Buschini go, and his only option was to join an independent franchise, one not affiliated with MLB.
It’s not uncommon for Major League franchises to sign standouts from independent teams.
Former Paso Robles High standout Jason Botts was signed from an independent team to a MLB-affiliated franchise in the Mexican League last season.
Jimmy Van Ostrand, a former teammate of Buschini’s at Cal Poly, was plucked by the Washington Nationals after just 27 games while batting .368 with three homers for the Sugarland Skeeters.
Buschini had a solid season with the Chico Outlaws in 2010 and hit .354 with 14 homers for the Amarillo Sox last season.
Buschini said a couple of MLB franchises were tracking his independent league progress, but it wasn’t until after his performance in Australia that the Padres got serious.
During points in his comeback, which included regular offseason workouts at Cal Poly with the Mustangs program and head coach Larry Lee, Buschini wondered if he was going to get another chance at the major.
He’ll miss Cal Poly’s alumni game, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Baggett Stadium, but if all goes as he expects, he’ll have plenty more opportunities to make that in the future.
“In the back of your mind you’re thinking about what you’re going to do after baseball,” Buschini said, “but I definitely felt I had lot left in me. That was goal, to get signed, and I’m happy to accomplish that.”