Navy baseball pitcher Charlie Connolly, pictured during the 2021 season, was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the final pick of the MLB draft on Tuesday.

Navy baseball pitcher Charlie Connolly, pictured during the 2021 season, was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the final pick of the MLB draft on Tuesday. (Phil Hoffmann, The Capital/TNS)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — Former Navy baseball player Charlie Connolly recently decided he wanted to be an officer instead of a professional player.

Given an opportunity to pursue professional baseball at the price of his commission, Connolly chose to continue serving as an ensign. He is currently on temporary assignment duty at the Naval Academy.

That did not dissuade the Los Angeles Dodgers from selecting Connolly with the final pick of the 2021 MLB draft. The Naval Academy graduate was taken at the end of the 20th round with the 612th overall pick, making him the MLB version of “Mr. Irrelevant.”

Navy coach Paul Kostacopoulos was somewhat surprised to learn Connolly had been drafted considering the circumstances, but nonetheless was happy for his former player.

“I’m proud of Charlie from an athletic perspective that he was able to get drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers,” Kostacopoulos said. “It’s pretty special recognition to simply get selected. It shows that he’s a pretty good player.”

Connolly, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, was considered a top tier professional prospect upon completion of his collegiate career. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander throws the fastball in the 94 to 96 MPH range and possesses above-average breaking pitches.

Navy has produced numerous pro pitching prospects during the 16-year tenure of Kostacopoulos with two of them — Oliver Drake and Mitch Harris — making the major leagues. Three other former Navy pitchers — Stephen Moore, Luke Gillingham and Noah Song — were selected in the MLB draft and briefly played minor league baseball. Kostacopoulos said Connolly’s throwing ability was on par with those previous midshipmen.

“My own eyes tell me that Charlie is a next-level talent,” Kostacopoulos told The Capital in early June. “Also, based off the volume of phone calls and emails I received from scouts as well as the large number of them who were out to evaluate Charlie tells me he was under consideration to be drafted.”

During his senior year at the academy, Connolly submitted a packet to superiors requesting to delay his active-duty service requirement so he could pursue professional baseball. The Wayne, Pennsylvania, native was hoping to take advantage of a year-old Department of Defense policy that enabled recent service academy graduates to participate in pro sports.

That policy, outlined in “Directive-type Memorandum 19-011, enabled former Navy football player Malcolm Perry to play with the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League during the 2020 season.

However, Connolly and former Navy football player Cameron Kinley were informed three days before graduation that their requests to be considered for the “pro sports option” had been denied. They would later learn that acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker declined to forward their packets to the Secretary of Defense for consideration.

Connolly and Kinley were initially told they had no right to appeal the decision, but that turned out not to be true.

Lieutenant Emily Wilkin, a spokeswoman for the United States Navy, issued a statement to The Capital last week that revealed there were, in fact, “available avenues of review.” After meeting with Navy leadership and learning their options, Kinley elected to proceed with the review while Connolly declined.

Kinley submitted a petition to the Board for Correction of Navy Records (BCNR) claiming the decision to not forward his request to delay commissioning was an error or injustice requiring correction. He sought a reversal of that ruling and relief from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.

After reviewing the petition, the Board of Correction of Naval Records made a recommendation, which Harker endorsed and forwarded to the Secretary of Defense.

Austin then rescinded Kinley’s commission, granted his request to delay commissioning and transferred the 2021 Naval Academy graduate to the Individual Ready Reserve with an enlisted status.

Kinley is now enlisted in the Individual Ready Reserve for up to a period of eight years at a grade no higher than E-4, in accordance with Department of Defense instruction. If Kinley does not make the NFL, he will be recommissioned and begin serving a Naval intelligence officer.

Connolly confirmed to The Capital last week that he was presented with the same course of action and declined to submit a petition to the BCNR because he did not want to resign his commission.

“Therefore, Connolly remains a commissioned officer carrying out the terms of his existing military commitment. He is currently an ensign assigned to the Naval Academy and will report to his next assignment to start surface warfare officer training,” Wilkin told The Capital in the statement.

Connolly, who commissioned as a surface warfare officer, is scheduled to report to the USS Russell, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer based in San Diego, at some point in November.

Kostacopoulos said Connolly has been teaching sailing to plebes and was out on the Severn River without access to a cell phone when the Dodgers drafted him Tuesday afternoon. He did not immediately respond to a voicemail and text mail from The Capital seeking comment.

It is possible the Dodgers could sign Connolly to a contract then place him on the military inactive list, therefore retaining his rights. Paul Murphy, Mid-Atlantic area scout for the Dodgers, was responsible for filing the initial evaluation of Connolly and said the 22-year-old had the repertoire required to succeed at the pro level.

“Obviously, being a Naval Academy graduate, he’s a young man with a great work ethic and great makeup,” Murphy said. “He has piercing fastball and a real good slider to go along with a bulldog mentality on the mound.”

Murphy said Dodgers management is fully aware of the latest information surrounding Connolly’s military commitment and that there were some “logistical” challenges.

“All those details will sort themselves out later. For now, we thought it would be a really good thing to invest in a talented pitcher who is a great young man,” Murphy said.


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