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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Brian Butterfield helped Jeter, coached over decades in game

Brian Butterfield 1990 Greensboro Hornets card
Derek Jeter recalled those five weeks at the end of 1993 as among the most important of his career, according to The Wall Street Journal.

He spent those five weeks with Yankees minor league coach Brian Butterfield. He spent them turning from an error-prone fielder into a professional shortstop, The Journal wrote in 2014.

"It was evident to all of us right away that he wanted to be a great player," Butterfield told The Journal, "and he was going to do everything he could to become a great player." 

From there, Jeter did become a great player. Butterfield went on to become a major league coach. He's been a major league coach for much of the past two decades, continuing in 2015 as third base coach for the Boston Red Sox.

Butterfield's long career in baseball began in 1979, signed by the Yankees as an undrafted free agent out of Florida Southern College. He also played at the University of Maine.

At Florida Southern, Butterfield's coach told his hometown Bangor Daily News about all the work Butterfield had done to better his game, including playing in a summer league and a weight lifting program.

"He knows what he has to do to play pro baseball and he wants to show people that he's capable of doing it," coach Joe Arnold told The Daily News. "I wish I had 100 Brian Butterfields on my team."

Butterfield's professional playing career started at short-season Oneonta. The infielder hit .218 in 58 games. He then moved to single-A Fort Lauderdale and Greensboro in 1980. He made AA and AAA briefly in 1982. His final year as a player came in 1983 at independent Miami.

He then started his coaching career, spending 1984 as a roving minor league instructor with the Yankees. He then served as a hitting coach and then a manager. His first managerial job came in 1988 in the rookie Gulf Coast League.

He continued with the Yankees in the minors through 1993, coaching during the season and in instructional league, including coaching Jeter.

Butterfield made his own debut in the majors in 1994, serving as the Yankees first base coach. He stayed there for two seasons. He then returned to the bigs in 1998, following former Yankees manager Buck Showalter to the Diamondbacks as third base coach.

In June 2000, Butterfield sent Matt Williams home on a fly ball to Larry Walker, according to The Associated Press. Williams scored.

"(Butterfield) said anyone catches it in the outfield, I don’t care who it is, and we’re going to take a shot at it,” Showalter told The AP afterward. "You talk about guys with great arms, a lot of times the guys who lead the league in assists you can run on. You don't make a habit of challenging Larry Walker. Obviously we caught him with his arm not being 100 percent."

Butterfield later followed another manager, John Farrell. Butterfield became the Blue Jays third base coach in 2002, a job he held for 11 years. The final two years were spent under Farrell. When Farrell moved on to manage the Red Sox in 2013, Butterfield went with him.

Farrell, Butterfield and the Red Sox then won the 2013 World Series. The next February, Butterfield was credited by Dustin Pedroia with helping him focus on the same thing Butterfield helped Jeter focus on: Defense, according to Pedroia won the 2013 Gold Glove and he repaid Butterfield by inviting him to the Gold Glove ceremony.

"He's a huge part of it," Pedroia told ESPNBoston. "I really didn't ask him, I told him he was coming. I was just making the plays; he was the one putting me in the spot."
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:1,864
Made the Majors: 868 - 46.6%-X
Never Made Majors: 996-53.4%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 371-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:217 

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