Adam Buschini was stunned to learn that the team he had hoped to grow with and help win games for had given up on him. Buschini played through a serious injury during his junior season in college and into his pro career, hoping his own toughness would result in success for his teams, but sometimes such fortitude can prove thankless and it did for this heard-nosed ballplayer.
As the California Polytech State University baseball team reached the Tempe Regional tournament for the first time in 2009, Buschini, who starred as the Mustangs' offensive leader, refused to succumb to a broken hand suffered on a hit by pitch. That year, he led the Mustangs in batting average (.422), home runs (11), RBI (61) and several other categories. With high hopes of leading his team to post-season glory, Buschini stuck it out, but Cal Poly fell to Kent State and Buschini's college career was complete.
Quickly, the gritty competitor's career went from a collegiate calamity to minor league motive, as the righty hitter signed his first professional contract and debuted with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters. A rough initial stretch in the pro ranks saw Buschini post a .228 batting average with two homers and 15 RBI through 52 games for the 'Cutters. Buschini would participate in the Florida Instructional League that year as well.
The following year, the 6-foot-2-inch 210-pounder was a key contributor for the Class A BlueClaws in the early going, but his hand injury worsened. Over time, Buschini lost cartilage in the injured area, making it painfully difficult to throw, lift weights and especially to hit a pitched ball with authority. Again, though, Buschini found himself on a club that was in the hunt for a post-season berth and felt responsibility to play through the discomfort in order to help his teammates.
"Our Lakewood team of 2010 was in the hunt for first place in the first half. Our manager Mark Parent...wanted me to stick it out and play because we didn’t have any other third baseman," Buschini explained during a recent interview.
No blame lies on Parent in Buschini's mind, however, as the California native credits the current Chicago White Sox bench coach as one of his favorite coaches he's played for and realizes that the choice was his to make. The decision was the right one, for Buschini, as the BlueClaws locked down the first half North division crown, helping them reach the playoffs and eventually win their second consecutive South Atlantic League title.
Midway through the season that year, Buschini visited Phillies team doctor Randall Culp, who performed an examination on the ailing infielder and was stunned that Buschini was still competing.
"(Dr. Culp) said 'Why are you playing baseball? You should have had surgery a long time ago, I can’t believe you are able to play'", Buschini explained.
A procedure, which saw cartilage taken from Buschini's left knee and put into his right hand resulted in considerable downtime and months of rehab.
The following spring training, the Phillies cut ties with the resilient man that played through an injury and did everything he could to help their organization raise a championship banner for their Class A club.
"It was hard for me, knowing that I played hurt for the organization and never got another chance," Buschini stated. "I had less than 500 at bats with the Phillies, which is equivalent to almost one full season in the minors."
His departure from the Phillies didn't end Buschini's baseball journey, however. Continuing his career with a focus on getting healthy and hopes of being re-signed by a Major League club to play in affiliated ball, Buschini has competed during the past two years in independent leagues. In 2011, Buschini played for the team that Parent managed before joining the Phillies organization, the Chico Outlaws of the North American Baseball League. There, he posted solid numbers, batting .288 with nine homers and 52 RBI in 81 contests. This past year, he played with the Amarillo Sox of the American Association, where he became an All-Star while leading his team in batting average and home runs.
Following that effort, still looking for a place to get experience and put himself on display for big league clubs, Buschini found himself an extra summer, down under. Taking the advice of college teammate Brian Grening, who played there last year, Buschini signed with the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League.
Piggybacking on the successful 2012 with the Sox, Buschini is now contending for an offensive triple crown as a member of the Cavalry, ranking third in the league in batting (.345 avg), first in home runs (10) and first RBI (38), while leading Canberra to a 22-17 record, which is second best in the ABL. Buschini stays focused on his efforts on the field and keeps his fingers crossed that a Major League franchise will come calling.
"I feel like I have done enough and showed that I am healthy. But it is out of my hands. All I control is my effort on the field everyday. Hopefully, a team will take notice and take a shot," Buschini, who does not have an agent, said.
Buschini also admits that he's had teammates reach out to their organizational contacts about his availability and asserts that he's heard from multiple big league teams, but hasn't had a contract offered by any of them at any point.
For his exceptional offensive output, Buschini credits a full physical recovery and a healthy body for being able to hit to his full capacity. He also states that contact lenses that he received from a service known as SlowTheGameDown.com, which focuses on visual performance training and features a tag line of, "As your eyes lead, your body follows", have improved his hand to eye coordination.
Additionally, Buschini's college coach, Larry Lee has been a colossal supporter of Buschini, instilling confidence in him and offering continued assistance with hitting.
As for his current team, and the significance of their success, Buschini stresses how important it would be to him and the entire Cavalry club to take down the two-time defending league champion Perth Heat.
"It would mean everything, if we won. Canberra has the best fans in the ABL and we want to bring home the Claxton Shield for them," Buschini excitedly declared. "We have the team to do it. We have great chemistry and everyone is pulling for each other. I believe if we stay healthy, we have a good chance. Perth and Sydney are both very good teams so we will see what happens."
Even if the Cavalry falls short of dethroning Perth, the experience of playing in Australia is one that Buschini will value for a long time. Citing the welcoming host family he lives with for having helped him adjust to the culture and dialect differences there, as well as celebrating the holidays in 100 degree weather as standout memories, the 25-year-old has taken away plenty from the experience.
Should his efforts in the ABL not steer him directly to an affiliated team in 2013, Buschini has his sights set on the Atlantic League, where many individuals, including former Phils prospect Bill Rice with Camden (NJ), played last year and were then scooped up by big league clubs on minor league deals. Lew Ford began the 2012 season playing in the league as well, then reached the Majors with the Baltimore Orioles by year's end.
"I have heard (the Atlantic League) is all ex-MLB and Triple-A players. I feel that playing in that league will give me the best chance to get picked up."