In the 2001 Baseball Prospectus annual, this comment was penned for a White Sox prospect:
“He’s credited with a strong arm and the athleticism to play center field and has been compared to Larry Walker and Dale Murphy.”
It didn’t quite work out like that for Joe Borchard, but he still managed to compile a list of impressive athletic feats.
Borchard was born Nov. 25, 1978 in Panorama City, Calif. His father, Joe, was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 48th round of the 1969 MLB Draft (though he didn’t sign).
Young Joe was a three-sport athlete at Camarillo (CA) High School (baseball, football and basketball) and was originally drafted by the Orioles in the 20th round of the 1997 MLB Draft, but he didn’t sign. A history major, he was recruited by Steve Mariucci to play quarterback at Cal, but ended up at Stanford.
Borchard was a legitimate two-sport star for the Cardinal. In three seasons on the diamond, he hit .346/.446/.594 with 40 homers and 187 RBIs in 186 games. On the gridiron, he tossed 10 touchdowns versus one interception in 16 games, primarily as a backup to Todd Husak. On Sept. 25, 1999, he came off the bench to throw for 324 yards and 5 touchdown passes in a 42-32 win over UCLA. Joe Borchard is included on a very short list of players to appear in both the Rose Bowl (2000) and the College World Series (1999 and 2000).
Three football scouts contacted by then-White Sox GM Ron Schueler projected him as a late first-round or second-round NFL draft pick as a quarterback. White Sox scouting director Duane Shaffer said Borchard had “the best power from a college player since Mark McGwire”
In the 2000 draft, the White Sox took a gamble on Borchard with the No. 12 overall pick, and it was a gamble. There was uncertainty as to whether Borchard would play for the White Sox or be the starting quarterback for Stanford in his senior season. He finally signed with the Sox on July 28 – for a healthy $5.3 million bonus — the largest ever given to a player acquired through the draft, at the time. The next largest bonus was given to the No. 1 overall pick, Adrián González ($3 million). González's record bonus would stand until Justin Upton’s $6.1 million topped it after the 2005 draft.
Borchard, a 6-foot-4 center fielder, started on his road to the majors. In 2001 at Birmingham, he hit .295/.384/.509 with 27 homers in 133 games, which landed him 12th overall on the Baseball America top 100 prospect list entering 2002 (between Austin Kearns and Nick Johnson). He had a strong bid to make the team out of spring training in 2002, hitting .375, but a broken foot due to a foul ball sealed his fate. Borchard played in the 2002 MLB All-Star Futures Game in Milwaukee and was eventually called up to the bigs in September.
On Sept. 2, 2002, Borchard became only the fourth player in White Sox history (Russ Morman, Craig Wilson and Carlos Lee) to hit a home run in a MLB debut. Miguel Olivo would join that list less than two weeks later. Matt Skole is the only other one (May 28, 2018). Career hit No. 2 — and career homer No. 2 — came a week later in Kansas City: an inside-the-park homer off Paul Byrd. It was the first Sox inside-the-parker since Chris Singleton on Sept. 29, 2000.
Borchard's first two MLB hits were an over-the-fence home run and an inside-the-park home run. Incredible! After that, he had six starts and seven games where he came in off the bench, finishing his 16-game introduction to the Majors with a .222/.243/.389 slash line, two homers and five RBIs.
Borchard struggled in 2003, starting the season in the minors but earned another 16-game taste of The Show following a May 23 promotion. He took a step back, hitting .184/.246/.265 with one home run with the White Sox, though that long ball was off the pitcher who went on to win the Cy Young Award – Roy Halladay. In early June, Borchard was sent back to Charlotte, where he finished with a .253/.307/.398 slash line, 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 114 games.
2004 found Borchard at Charlotte to begin the season where he regained a little bit of his power stroke, hitting .266/.333/.495 with 16 homers in 82 games. He returned to the White Sox after Magglio Ordoñez went down with what would end up being a season-ending knee injury (ultimately ending his career with the Sox). Borchard couldn’t solve big league pitching, posting a meager .174/.249/.338 line with nine home runs in 63 games for the South Siders.
He did manage to etch his name in the White Sox record book on Aug. 30, when he launched a Brett Myers offering 504 feet to the right field concourse. It remains the longest home run in New Comiskey Park (now Guaranteed Rate Field) history. Consider that, in 2019, what was termed the 'Year of the Home Run,' nobody came within 30 feet of Borchard’s blast at Guaranteed Rate Field all season.
While the White Sox went wire-to-wire in 2005, Joe Borchard hit .265/.338/.484 with 29 home runs… in Charlotte. He played seven games after being called up in September, going 5-for-12 in what would end up his last action with the White Sox. Borchard was dealt to the Mariners in exchange for lefty reliever Matt Thornton on March 20, 2006. Six games and nine plate appearances later he was claimed off waivers by the Marlins and ended up having what would be his finest season. He played 114 games (108 with Florida) and hit .230/.319/.393 with 10 home runs.
A fun piece of trivia: Borchard is the last player to homer off Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in the same season, although by now, only Smoltz was pitching for the Braves. Glavine was now with the Mets and Maddux had returned to the Cubs. Either way, that’s three Hall of Famers and quite an achievement. On Sept. 6, Borchard hit a solo homer to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead. It would be all they needed, as Anibal Sánchez completed a no-hit 2-0 win against the Diamondbacks that day.
Borchard continued with the Marlins in 2007 before minor league stints with the Braves and Giants from 2008-10. He missed a chunk of time after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2008. On May 3, 2010 he became the second player in Fresno Grizzlies history to hit for the cycle. After 24 games with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League in 2011, he hung up the spikes for good.
Borchard never attained All-Star status, but his career had some memorable moments. There are only 30 active MLB ballparks and he can claim the longest home run ever hit at one of them, and that’s pretty cool. Besides, not too many players can boast a 500-foot home run AND an inside-the-park home run on their résumé. He was inducted into the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and in 2019, he was inducted into the Charlotte Knights Round Table of Honor. After his playing career he worked as a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual in Charlotte and he’s currently the Director of Sales at Ventura Coastal, LLC, which sells customized blends of citrus juices, pulps, oils, purees and more.
Joe Borchard. Remember that guy?