As a fellow fan of Carlton Fisk who grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago as a White Sox fan, it’s pretty cool to write about Josh Paul.
Joshua William Paul was born May 19, 1975 in Evanston, and grew up a White Sox fan, idolizing Carlton Fisk. The family moved northwest and Josh attended Buffalo Grove High School, where he hit .529 with 7 HR and 31 RBI as a senior. He went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and played Cape Cod League ball during the summer, earning 1995 Cape League MVP honors for the Cotuit Kettleers, leading the circuit with a .364 average.
In 1996, Paul was drafted by the White Sox in the second round, 47th overall as an outfielder – he was drafted one pick after Jimmy Rollins. The White Sox converted Paul to a catcher, where he learned the craft quickly. He excelled at throwing out runners and showed outstanding speed for a backstop.
In 1996, Paul hit .327/.386/.504 with 8 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 59 games for class-A Hickory. He was on the fast track to success, but at Birmingham (AA) in 1997, he suffered a broken hamate bone in his right wrist and hit .296/.367/.365 with just one longball in 34 games. He spent all of 1998 with Winston-Salem (high-A) and hit only .255, but had 11 home runs, seven triples, and 20 steals, which is quite impressive for a catcher. The following season, Paul hit only four home runs in 93 games for Birmingham (AA), but hit a respectable .279 with a .345 OBP. He skipped triple-A (at the time) and got a six-game trial with the White Sox at the tail end of 1999.
Josh Paul made his MLB debut on September 7, replacing Mark Johnson in the seventh inning. For his first plate appearance, he grounded out against Shigetoshi Hasegawa to end the game. A week later, he singled off Matt Anderson of the Tigers for his first Big League hit. Paul had drawn rave reviews within the White Sox organization for his work ethic. Then-farm director Kenny Williams noted, "If my four sons grow up to have the determination and character of Josh Paul, I'll be a very happy father."
A Brook Fordyce injury gave Paul the opportunity to crack the White Sox opening day roster as the backup catcher to Mark Johnson. Paul made the most of his opportunity and on April 24, he connected on his first Major League home run – a three-run blast off Hall of Famer Mike Mussina. Paul is one of 24 players in White Sox history to collect the first Major League home run off a Hall of Fame pitcher. Two days later, Paul posted his first career 3-hit game. Paul was sent back to the minors when Brook Fordyce returned to the White Sox, and was recalled for September. Paul hit .282 in 36 games at the Major League level, and threw out 10 of 21 potential base stealers. He appeared in game 1 of the ALDS against the Mariners as a pinch runner. In all, a decent year for the young backstop.
Paul made the opening day roster again in 2001, and hit .266/.327/.410 with 3 HR, 18 RBI and 6 steals in 57 games, spending July and the first half of August back at Charlotte (AAA). In 2002, Paul started at Charlotte and got into 33 games for the Sox, hitting .240. That year, Josh’s brother Jeremy was drafted (as a catcher) by the White Sox in the 46th round of the 2002 MLB Draft, but he ended up not signing.
Paul played 13 games for the Sox in 2003, with six hits in 17 at-bats (.353), but the White Sox decided to designate him for assignment at the end of June. Josh opted for his release and ended up signing with the Cubs about a week later. After a stint at Iowa (AAA), Paul was called up and made it into three games for the Cubs. He’s one of 15 players (six position players) to play for both the White Sox and Cubs in the same season (through 2019).
Paul signed with the Angels for 2004 and ended up spending the next two seasons in Anaheim, occasionally seeing time in the Majors (Bengie and his brother José held down the catcher position most games). Josh caught Bartolo Colon for an inning on May 7, 2005 (eleven years to the day before Bartolo hit his epic home run off James Shields in San Diego), so Paul added catching a pitcher in a Cy Young season to his resume. Josh saw two games of postseason action in 2005; the first of which was a pinch running appearance in the ALDS. In his second postseason appearance of 2005, he was at the center of one of the more controversial moments in recent MLB history.
Paul entered the game in the eighth inning of a 1-1 tie in Game 2 of the ALCS; the Angels up one game to none. In the ninth inning, with two outs, A.J. Pierzynski swung and missed, and then after a slight hesitation took off for first believing the ball hit the dirt. Paul casually rolled the ball to the mound and started jogging to the dugout because that made three outs. Umpire Doug Eddings awarded Pierzynski first base. Paul maintains to this day that he caught the ball, but could have avoided all uncertainty by tagging Pierzynski just in case. But that’s easy to say in hindsight.
Pierzynski left the game for a pinch runner, Pablo Ozuna, who scored the game-winning run on a Joe Crede double. And the White Sox went on to win the series four games to one. To look back and place blame on Paul is silly. The game would’ve remained tied and the White Sox pitching looked way too strong for the Angels to overcome.
It just so happens that Paul never played another game for the Angels; on December 19, 2005 he was traded to the Rays for pitcher Travis Schlichting. Paul logged part-time duty for Joe Maddon’s Rays in 2006 and 2007, played in 2008 for Round Rock (AAA) in the Astros organization, then called it a career.
Since hanging up his spikes, Paul has become a highly regarded coach. He spent 2009-17 in the Yankees organization, managing single-A Staten Island in 2009-10, then was a Yankees pro scout in 2011-14 and was minor league catching coordinator from 2015-17.
Paul returned to the Angels where he spent 2018-19 as Bench Coach at the Major League Level, and on November 12, 2019 was named quality control coach for the Detroit Tigers. He has earned high praise for his work with catchers, most notably Gary Sánchez of the Yankees. Playing under Managers of the Year such as Jerry Manuel, Mike Scioscia and Joe Maddon has certainly helped him work his way to the top. Will a managerial post be in the near future? It wouldn’t be a surprise.
A Sox fan, then a Sox catcher, now a rising star in the coaching ranks.
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