Adam Czajkowski won’t soon forget the first time he met Jeremy Booth.
It was back in 2015, and the former Yankees scout was back in Massachusetts pursuing various options to get back in baseball. A mutual friend put Czajkowski, now Program 15’s director of baseball operations, in touch with Booth back when P15 was still just getting off the ground.
“Program 15, at the time, was really just an idea at that point,” Czajkowski recalled. “All he was doing was working with six or seven minor league guys down in Texas; there weren’t combines or anything like that yet, it was very much so in its infancy.”
The two met at Gillette Stadium for an Eagles-Patriots game, sitting together and shooting the breeze about the state of the game.
“He’s a very passionate guy,” Czajkowski said. “You always hear about these guys who start the big companies – Google, Facebook, etc. – and it’s almost like they have this crazy idea, but didn’t care about what anyone thought of it, if they said it would work or not. To me, he’s a visionary. He’s motivated and passionate about this, because he really does want to help kids and change the game.”
Change the game.
That’s New Balance Baseball’s vision, and it matches perfectly with Booth’s. In just a short amount of time, working together, they’ve been able to do just that. Perhaps more importantly, it’s been done the right way.
“I grew up in Major League Baseball, and my dad always said to carry yourself with dignity and class,” Booth said. “My mom always said when you do that, and you’re not afraid of anybody, they’re going to find a reason to come after you. So, be ready to be better…be ready to work harder…be ready to achieve…be ready to lead unless you want to spend your life chasing everybody.”
“(With P15), it’s been a fast first year. It’s been an aggressive first year. Really, it’s been a year of laying the foundation and after talking with a couple groups last year beginning in February, I couldn’t be happier to be with New Balance Baseball and couldn’t be happier with what we’ve done in year one.”
Program 15 has become a leader thanks to its leader, a man who truly didn’t make his star turn until his playing days were over. Once a highly-touted amateur star, Booth’s professional career didn’t go quite as planned; he spent nearly a decade on the independent and foreign circuit before finding quick success in coaching and then scouting.
“I didn’t know what baseball was going to bring me,” Booth said.
“Some of the things I did as a pro, and the relationships I built as an amateur, people felt I could play and respected me as a player. My professional record is what it is, but I was able to be around good people and I built relationships over that. I was in circles with guys who were first, second, third round picks, and I was able to carry their respect of the guys that I played with on the way up even though professional baseball worked out the way that it did as a player. I think some of that had to do with relating to people and getting to lead while I was on the field…but my damage was done off the field. My damage was done in evaluation and development, and for whatever reason I made a name for myself there, which carried over into this. To do what we’re doing, it starts with true evaluation, all of it does…and I committed myself to my craft off the field. So, I wasn’t a big name as a pro player, and I never looked to be a big name off the field. That’s not why you do it. I’m thankful to have earned that respect and that my reputation is what it is. I’m very proud of that.”
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss playing. I don’t miss the time, I don’t miss the 12-hour workout days, I don’t miss some of the no-pay in the minor leagues. I don’t miss that. But what I do miss is the grind, and the lessons I learned a step at a time, where at the time I didn’t know it. In my post-playing career days, I would think it’s fair to say I moved up pretty quickly. I had some people that believed in me; Deron Johnson, Bruce Seid, Jack Zduriencik, and Ray Montgomery with some of the things they taught me how to do…I’ve been taught right, so I believe in what I see and stay in my convictions. In this line of work, as hard as it is to truly change the game and give it back to the players, give it to the people who can do this and make a difference in people’s lives, the preparation and what I did after baseball was what led me to this.”
For those who’ve worked with Booth for a long time, like current P15 VP of Scouting Butch Baccala, they know his words are genuine.
“You can tell the people you’re going to get along with, and just listening to him, I had respect for him immediately,” said Baccala, who was alongside Booth in the Seattle Mariners scouting department.
“I liked him. Jeremy has been brought up in an environment that’s been about winning and about hard work and succeeding. When you’re brought up into that kind of environment, you’re relentless until you fill that pursuit.”
The culmination of the hard work of everyone at Program 15 will be International Week, which starts with Media Day on Monday in Sugar Land, Texas. Some of the top talent around the world will descend onto beautiful Constellation Field for a National team vs. World team three-game series, a true top-tier event that will have many of the most important eyes in the game watching.
“This week is the manifestation of where this all originally started,” Booth said.
“To have this type of response and belief in what we’re doing and the connections we’ve made and the way we work together as a unit…to see that happen, I’m thankful to all the people we’ve worked with; New Balance, Franklin, All-Star, Zinger. I’m thankful to the Skeeters for helping us do this and the city of Sugar Land and the city of Houston to put all this stuff together in year one. It’s been 18-hour days, but it’s been a whirlwind. I’m happy it’s paid off and we’ve made the impact we have in year one and to finish it this way and make an impact on the guys who wanted to be here.”