USA Today Sports

Why you should care about Dan Butler retiring

Rob Bradford
November 27, 2018 - 3:28 pm

Dan Butler is being forced to adjust things a bit. For instance, there is some home security he may have to rethink thanks to a forthcoming World Series ring.

"I’m not a safe guy. I have one but I just don’t have anything in it," said the former Red Sox catcher, whose most prized baseball possession, the baseball from his first big league hit, is stored away in a sock in his upstairs closet. "I’ve got the safe downstairs. My buddy had given it to me. I just hadn’t gotten the energy to carry it upstairs."

Yes, life is changing for Butler.

The safe issue aside, the biggest news when it comes to the 32-year-old is his retirement from playing professional baseball. First came soaking in the World Series from his Arizona home ("I had a glass of whiskey and I felt like I was in the stands with my face painted," he said. "I was locked into every game. It was pretty fun to watch those guys dominate the playoffs."). And then there was the call to Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett informing the organization he had spent all but one of his 10 years in pro ball with he was moving on.

He was finishing with a grand total of nine major league appearances -- seven in 2014 and two this past season

"Before the season," said Butler when he made his decision. "I was talking to my wife about it and said, ‘We’ll see what happens but I think this might be it.’"

So, why is this important?

Butler represents what a big deal it is to actually play in a Major League Baseball game, particularly when the path to such a dream looks so implausible. 

He was a third-string catcher for the University of Arizona whose big break getting a chance to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League. The Red Sox were short a catcher at Single-A Lowell for the 2009 season. So then-Red Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye pulled Butler aside after a game in Bourne and offered him $10,000 to give pro ball a whirl. The catcher's only two asks of the Red Sox executive was giving him a chance to say goodbye to his Cape League teammates and allow for enough time to pack his bags at his host family's house before jumping in the exec's car.

The next spring training there was still no guarantees Butler was going to stick around for another minor league season. But he landed with Single-A Greenville, impressing enough to jump up to Salem and then Triple-A Pawtucket for a couple of games. By the time the end of the 2011 spring training rolled around Butler had left enough of an impression on the Sox brass that he was invited to play at Minute Maid Park for one of the club's two exhibition games leading into that season.

For the first time, he was playing in a major league uniform and in a major league ballpark. And his parents' presence made it an even bigger deal.

"That was something I will always remember," he said.

The career highlights kept coming, albeit sporadically. There was finding out he was put the Red Sox' 40-man roster in 2012 while battling food poisoning in the Dominican Republic. Of course, the first big league game jumps to the front of the list, when he caught Rubby De La Rosa in a Sox' 2014 loss in Anaheim. And that first hit, a double off the Fenway Park left field wall against Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen.

Then there were his six at-bats for the World Champs this season.

"I had so many few at-bats in the majors I could probably remember them all 20 years from now," Butler said.

"When I was in the big leagues I felt like I was going to be there forever. That’s how it is, you feel like you’re going to be there forever. And then six days later you’re not. I enjoyed the big leagues more this time around than I did in ’14. I don’t know if it was because I knew I wasn’t going to be back, but I just enjoyed it more. It was more fulfilling this year."

As Butler noted, Sawdaye is now starting the Arizona native's career for a second time, with the Diamondbacks' assistant general manager playing a role in hiring the former Red Sox as a bullpen catcher. It's a role that will include a variety of responsibilties, allowing Butler a taste of what might await him down the road.

"I called them when the season was done and asked them if they had any openings. They weren’t sure," Butler said. "Amiel ended up calling me back to tell me they had the bullpen catching job open. I was like, ‘Um, maybe.’ It ended up being more than I thought it would be. It’s more of an opportunity to get my foot in the door. I thought it was a good opportunity to, one, stay in the big leagues, and two, you can learn from these guys and use it almost like an internship. It might lead to things that open my eyes to other parts of the baseball world I have no idea about.

"I was able to go out on my own terms. It wasn’t like someone took the jersey away from me. That was pretty special for me. And just being around a historical season. Being part of that was pretty cool."