Kristen and Buster would go for runs together on Turkey Farm road, ride four-wheelers and hunt deer on the property. They married in 2009. The processional song as they left the church for the first time as man and wife was "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," played on the trumpet by a minister from Buster's youth group at the church.
During Posey's youth, the success of the Braves turned Georgia into a baseball hotbed. High school and travel programs flourished. From 1999—four years after the Braves won the World Series—through 2004, 156 high school players from Georgia were drafted, including future big league stars Brandon Phillips, Adam Wainwright, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Francoeur, Jonathan Broxton, Brian McCann and Dexter Fowler. In 2005, Posey, a shortstop and a pitcher who threw 93 mph, was the next Georgia prospect of great renown. "One of our scouts, Chris McAlpin, told me, 'You need to see this guy,' " says Eddie Bane, the Angels' scouting director at the time. "He said, 'I don't know what [position] he is, but he can do everything.' I saw him, and he played short and hit a long home run, and the next game he pitched. And you could tell he had plenty of brain waves."
Word circulated, though, that Posey was firm on attending Florida State. The Angels decided to take a flier on Posey in the 50th round. "The reason we took him," Bane says, "was his incredible makeup. The leadership. The way he conducted himself. It's the same thing you see with the Giants. The leadership is not screaming and yelling. It just flows off him."
Says Posey, who stuck with his commitment to Florida State, "I would have signed if it was the right situation—first round. But I wouldn't have been ready. I don't see how kids do it. I really don't. You're a kid still. You're under your parents' roof and then—bam!—you're an adult. At least with college there's a transition period."
As a sophomore at Florida State, Posey moved to catcher to fill a team need. He had never played the position before. He spent the six months prior to the spring season squatting whenever he watched television, to prepare his body for the position. "I fell in love with it quick, even though I got beat up a little more than normal," Posey says. "It's hard to explain what I love about it. I think it's seeing the field. You're constantly involved in the game."
As a junior, Posey won the Golden Spikes Award as the college player of the year. John Barr, the special assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean, rated Posey as the best player available in the 2008 draft. He had known and liked Posey ever since he met him and his parents at a high school showcase in Florida; they happened to stay at the same hotel in neighboring rooms. There was one problem for the Giants: Four teams would pick before they did. The Rays took Tim Beckham, a high school shortstop from Georgia yet to reach the majors. The Pirates took Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez. The Royals took high school first baseman Eric Hosmer. The Orioles took University of San Diego pitcher Brian Matusz. "What I liked about [Posey] was the way he plays the game," Barr says. "I don't want to say it comes easy, but he has such a calm demeanor. You knew he's the guy you want up there in key situations. Everybody involved with him knew that this was someone of solid character."
The Giants handed Posey $6.2 million, the largest up-front bonus in the history of the draft. Asked about what splurge purchase he made with such a windfall, Posey looks perplexed. He pauses for a moment and decides, "I, uh, I don't think there was one...."
Well, surely the $167 million extension must have inspired something lavish, no?
"Um, we did buy an apartment in Arizona, one we're outgrowing already," he says.
"Here's when I knew he was special," says Shawon Dunston, a special instructor for the Giants and the top pick in the 1982 draft. "His first spring training—and this is after he signs for six million dollars!—he shows up in the players' parking lot with a rental car. When I saw that I went, 'The Giants drafted the right guy.' Buster has an old soul. He's just different."