Though he is among the most decorated and enriched young players ever, Posey has managed to keep such a low profile that, as Baer observes, "If Buster was walking down Madison Avenue on a busy Saturday afternoon, my guess is that one or two people might—might—recognize him."
Posey is known as a darn good baseball player and exactly what teams wish for when they pick high in the draft (the Giants chose him fifth overall in 2008): the face of the franchise in a championship era. And that's about it. Posey is not a brand. He is not a renowned pitchman. He is not a personality. "I think you're on the right track," he says. "I like to keep things pretty simple. I can go to cities and go to restaurants or the movies and occasionally I'll get recognized—but not for the most part."
Is this relative anonymity, he is asked, a good thing?
He smiles. "Oh, yes," he says. "It is a good thing."
How could someone be this accomplished this young? And how could the same person be so underexposed? To find the answer to both questions you need follow just one trail: the three quarters of a mile of dirt road known as Turkey Farm Road.
LEESBURG, POPULATION 2,896 and the county seat of Lee County ("Life Works Well Here"), covers about five square miles and two stoplights in rural southwest Georgia. No one is certain whether its namesake is Richard Henry Lee, a Virginia statesman and signer of the Declaration of Independence, or Henry Lee III, the father of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. What matters now is that Leesburg is where Buster Posey grew up from the time he was 10 years old, in 1997.
You turn off Pinewood Road to get to Turkey Farm Road. It is a dirt track that meanders and bends, first around a water collection pond created by the dusty, white kaolin once scooped out of the earth, and then through a thicket of tall pines. After nearly a mile there is a clearing, a grassy pasture of almost four acres that would take young Buster and his two younger brothers two hours to cut with a 50-foot mowing deck.
There is an old red turkey barn, a vestige of what once gave the road its name, and at the far end of the clearing sits a four-bedroom farmhouse with hardwood floors and a metal roof. To the side of the clearing a creek winds through the property with the twists and turns of a long strand of spaghetti. For a boy growing up with his mother, Traci, a teacher, his father, Demp, who runs a food distribution business, and sister Sam and brothers Jack and Jess—the four siblings were born 6½ years apart—it was 56 acres of a private heaven on earth. "We grew up on a piece of land kind of by ourselves," Posey says. "We grew up playing together. We had friends over occasionally. I think all of us were content to spend Friday night or Saturday night at home with each other. It was really a fun place to grow up."
On the property the Posey kids hunted for turkey and deer, fished for bass and brim and tended the occasional horse or cow the family kept. Nothing, though, beat playing baseball in various forms in the pasture. Demp built a backstop, and the makeshift field hosted youth league practices as well as competitive Wiffleball and tennis baseball games between the Posey siblings. What they loved best of all was playing ball on the field after a good soaking of rain—the better to slide for what seemed forever over the grass and mud.
A local girl eventually joined in on some of the fun. One day, as a junior in high school, Posey was taking the SAT test. The students were arranged in their desks by alphabetical order, which is how Posey found himself sitting in front of Kristen Powell. He remembered the cute blonde from vacation Bible school; she didn't remember him. He asked her to the prom. She accepted. "We've been together ever since," she says.