With no Blue Jays job (or Patriots game), Brian Butterfield finally ready to talk Red Sox
|11.23.12 at 8:38 pm ET|
Brian Butterfield’s buddies had finally gotten clearance to talk Red Sox … sort of.
For more than a month, even after Butterfield was named third-base coach for the Red Sox, the 54-year-old Maine native had respectively declined all opportunities to talk about anything job-related.
While the Red Sox job was great, his dream was still to manage, and that opportunity was still in play as long as the Blue Jays hadn’t named a new skipper. But after Toronto hired one of Butterfield’s best friends in baseball, John Gibbons, to become its new manager earlier this week, it was time to officially move on.
That meant there could be talk of the Red Sox – with the exception of Thanksgiving night during the Patriots game.
“We had six guys over last night to watch the Patriots dismantle that team from New York and two of the guys mentioned that my biggest reason for being excited about being a member of the Boston Red Sox is because Coach Belichick and Tom Brady are just 20 minutes away,” Butterfield said from his home in Maine. “I corrected them. I said, ‘That is not 100 percent true.’ The boys wanted to talk about the Sox an awful lot, but [Thursday] night was not the night. I prefer to concentrate on down and distance.”
In reality, distractions like his beloved Patriots have been a saving grace for Butterfield, who wasn’t ruled out of the running for the Blue Jays’ job until the final few days.
“[Toronto general manager] Alex [Anthopolous] and I have a great relationship, and he stayed in contact. It basically came down to the 11th-hour,” Butterfield said. “There were certain things he wanted in his next manager. When push came to shove and they were trying to narrow down the list, and Alex even told me this, he really had to have a guy who had previous major league managing experience. I felt like I was right there in the hunt at the end, just like I was in 2010 when they selected John.
“But there are things that we want in baseball, it’s life, and it’s not my time yet. I love being a big league coach. I love working with infielders and baserunners. I love the fact I’m back home. I’m in New England. I love the passion of this sports town. I love the Red Sox organization. I’m getting closer and closer of being fully absorbed as a member of the Boston Red Sox, and as we get closer to spring training the more anxious I’m going to become.
“It was probably the most difficult period of my major league coaching career. I’ve always felt like I’ve been a guy, once I go forward I go full-speed. I go full-throttle. That’s why I could never coaching the winter leagues because when I go through a regular season, I’m fried, because I’m going full-bore trying to make the club better, trying to make the players better and try to make the team a champion. It was very difficult because I didn’t have both feet in. There was a chance with the Toronto situation, and the Red Sox situation. They were both good situations, but I didn’t have both feet fully in. I didn’t speak to anybody because I was in-between. It’s almost like I’ve been given an extra breath because the decision has been made and now I can get both feet in and work toward a championship season.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell, who had been with Butterfield for the past two seasons with the Blue Jays, wanted to make locking up the veteran coach a priority. Speaking shortly after the hire, Farrell told WEEI.com regarding Butterfield, ““He’s positive. He always looks for ways to make a positive impact on a player, whether it’s with a fundamental technique or talking through the game about challenges they might encounter. This is someone who even in his post-playing career he hasn’t forgotten how difficult this game is and how fast this game can move. At the same time, this is one of the most prepared coaches I’ve ever been around.”
Not hurting the energetic Butterfield’s case was his familiarity with the Fenway Park third-base coaching box.
In 10 seasons on the Blue Jays’ staff, Butterfield served as a third-base coach in 83 games at Fenway Park.
“I love the challenge of coaching third base, and I love going into Boston.,” he said. “I love the different dimensions of Fenway Park. When we would have our advance meetings to go into play the Red Sox, that ballpark is one I spend an awful lot of time talking to the players about just because how unique it is. It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge I like. I can’t wait to strap it on with the players down in spring training and talk baserunning and talk about the things we can do in our own ballpark. I’m certainly not intimidated by Fenway Park because I feel like I’ve seen it enough I feel comfortable with it. The one thing is, that ball down in the left field corner, unless you get both feet in fair territory you can’t see. It’s a critical play to see if the left fielder has picked it up cleanly or not. There are a lot of things that are challenges about Fenway Park, and then you add the passion of the whole region, it’s exciting. I can’t wait.”
Butterfield’s responsibilities will mirror what he oversaw in Toronto, helping guide the infield defense and baserunning. While he seamlessly rattles off some of the names of Red Sox’ infielders he has started looking forward to working with, one has already served as a drawing card when contemplating his new job – second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
“That’s not to short-change the other guys in the organization, but as an infielder instructor at the big league level, there are certain things you want your infielders to do team-wise,” Butterfield explained. “I try to write an infielder profile each year for my infielder and occasionally we’ll look at those profiles again midway through the season just to reaffirm the way we want to play and what we want to be about. It’s not so much how you want to catch a ball or throw a ball. It’s about the key things that are important to us: where to be with team defense, what do we want to do, how do we want to approach a meeting at the mound, what are we doing in that meeting. Just things like that that require effort and intelligence. When I look at Dustin Pedroia on the other side, he is the benchmark of any infielder I have watched in baseball. I’m so excited with the opportunity to learn and work with him and exchange ideas and just be on the same team. When you see a guy compete with the way he does, with this intensity and toughness and selflessness … it’s a great opportunity for me to get to know him better and learn and exchange ideas with him.”
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