Baseball spring training is a time for hope, renewal … and sometimes farewell.

Charlie Furbush did everything he could to resume his major league career this spring. Since he last threw a big-league pitch in the summer of 2015, the South Portland native underwent rotator-cuff surgery in 2016 and 2017 on his left shoulder, received countless injections and attacked physical therapy with a singular focus on returning to a major league bullpen.

For two months this winter, he even changed his delivery to sidearm in an effort to take stress off his shoulder.

“I tried to be as adaptive as I could,” Furbush said by phone Tuesday from his home in Seattle. “I could be a crafty sidewinder lefty. That would be awesome.”

As Furbush worked on developing a new breaking ball, however, his arm sent unmistakable signals. Pain from his elbow leaked into his hand. He tried ice and rest, but the feeling persisted.

“I realized after one of the last times I went out and threw,” he said, “I don’t think there’s another way I can do this.”


And so, a little more than a month shy of his 33rd birthday, Furbush announced his retirement. Although the past three years have had their ups and downs emotionally, Furbush on Tuesday expressed no hint of sadness or melancholy. Instead, he sounded almost giddy, eager to explore his next chapter of life.

“I can’t be any happier,” he said, “because I got to do what I love for so long. Man, it’s been an incredible journey.”

Furbush grew up in South Portland, attended Mahoney Middle School (unlike his older brother Jon, who went to Memorial, because “I was going to be my own guy”) and South Portland High. He continued his career at St. Joseph’s College in Standish until success in the Cape Cod Summer League opened the eyes of scouts and Division I coaches, and Furbush transferred to Louisiana State University before being drafted by Detroit in 2007.

He made his debut with the Tigers on May 23, 2011, and earned the win in relief of starter Brad Thomas, who slipped on wet turf and injured his ankle in the fourth inning against Tampa Bay. Two months later, Furbush was part of a trade-deadline deal with Seattle and he finished out his career with the Mariners.

His last appearance, fittingly, came against the Tigers on July 7, 2015, and again he won in relief when the Mariners scored in the bottom of the 11th inning.

He arrived a winner and went out a winner, and among the 245 appearances in between Furbush became part of history when he was one of six Mariner pitchers to combine on a no-hitter in June of 2012.


Now what?

“I’m trying to figure that out day by day,” he said. “I’m really eager to see where I go, what direction I take. It’s likely I’ll be back in baseball in some capacity, but who knows what the world is going to throw at me.”

On a cold day last month at the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, Furbush proposed to Michelle Ludtka, a television sports broadcaster from Seattle, and she accepted. They’re looking at 2020 for a wedding.

As Seattle’s player representative for four years, Furbush has experience in labor relations. He immersed himself in community relations and became a favorite of both fans and Mariners management, regularly appearing in witty promotional videos.

“I kind of want to explore all options,” he said. “People have talked about getting into broadcast or radio. We’ll see. There’s a lot of fun things.”

His troublesome shoulder, which at times clicked, double-clicked and still has “some crunchiness” in it, no longer pains him, now that he no longer throws baseballs. He has full range of motion. He can play golf. He imagines a one-on-one game of basketball with Jon Furbush, the men’s coach at Bates College, is likely.


He does not rue what could have been. He celebrates what was, and what will be.

“I have so many great memories,” he said.

“I’m just a kid from Maine who got to live his dream.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH


CORRECTION: This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. on March 13, 2019, to correct the name of Michelle Ludtka. 

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