The Cyclones’ Drew Butera has been sharing the team’s catching job with Rafael Arroyo so far this season, and a very interested spectator at a number of Drew’s games at Keyspan Park has been Toronto Blue Jay’s scout Sal Butera, who also happens to be Drew’s dad.
Sal Butera grew up on Long Island and played baseball at Connetquot High School and Southern Community College before turning pro. A catcher, he eventually played for four major league teams, including the Minnesota Twins.
Drew was a shortstop at Bishop Moore High School in Orlando, Fla. He converted to catcher in his senior year and was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays after high school.
“But Drew was too small — he was only about 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds soaking wet,” said his father. “So he decided to go to the University of Central Florida, basically because they promised him that he’d start as a freshman.”
But Drew didn’t stay small, growing to his present size of 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds. He became a prospect, drafted by the Mets in the fifth round of this year’s draft.
The elder Butera, at Keyspan Park to observe both the Auburn Doubledays — a Toronto farm club — and his son, discussed the qualities that a catching prospect should possess.
“You have to be an athlete to play the position. You have to have agility, quick feet —not necessarily speed — and you obviously have to have a strong arm, and very, very good hands,” said Sal.
The Cyclones have many players who are right out of college, so the senior Butera analyzed the process that a college player must go through as he acclimates to minor league ball.
“It’s a huge adjustment to go from college to pro ball. You make the adjustment from the metal bat to the wood bat, playing against good competition every night, having to make adjustments at the plate,” said Sal.
“I look at how the guy handles the ups and downs of playing at this level and how he is defensively, because defense is a constant while hitting goes up and down.”
Another change for a college catcher, in particular, is that of calling a game.
“In college, generally, coaches call the games. But on a pro level a catcher usually calls the game itself, and that is an adjustment.”
Sal also pointed out that a new professional catcher must often learn to communicate with Spanish-speaking pitchers and help them to adjust to the pro game as well.
Butera’s parents on both sides immigrated to Brooklyn from Italy, before moving to Queens and then Long Island, but some of Butera relatives still live in Flatbush and other sections of Brooklyn. They have been coming out to games at Keyspan to see him play.
Sal said Keyspan Park is a great place for prospects to play, “because it’s a beautiful ballpark with seven or eight thousand at every game, plus it acclimates players to the New York area.”
It rhymes with Mookie
The Cyclones have a player whose family nickname rhymes with the nickname of the Brooks manager.
William Wilson is the Clones’ skipper, but everybody calls him Mookie.
Who has a nickname that rhymes with Mookie?
The player is an outfielder.
He is from Schenectady, NY.
Like Mookie, he likes to steal bases.
It’s Kyle Brown, and his nickname is “Pookie.”
On The Verge?
Some former Cyclones are doing well at Norfolk, the final stop before the Mets.
Chase Lambin, an infielder who played for Brooklyn in 2002, is hitting .299 for the triple-A Tides with five home runs. Earlier this season, Lambin was with double-A Binghamton, where he hit 14 homers while batting .331.
Jason Scobie, who was with the Cyclones in both 2001 and 2002, is 14-5 for Norfolk, with an ERA of 3.49.
Blake McGinley, with Brooklyn in 2001, is 4-4 at Norfolk with a 3.27 ERA, and Alan Bannister, with Brooklyn in 2003, is 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA after being called up from Binghamton.
Angel Pagan, an outfielder with the Cyclones in 2001, is hitting .271 with Norfolk, with a club leading 22 stolen bases.
August 13, 2005 issue