Butterfield, Brian (2014)
For a man raised under the same roof as one of Maine’s most revered coaching icons, it’s no surprise that Orono native Brian Butterfield is earning national acclaim as one of major league baseball’s most respected and admired coaches.
The son of the late Jack Butterfield, a longtime University of Maine baseball coach and later vice-president of player development and scouting for the New York Yankees from 1977 until his death in 1979, Brian was a 3-sport star at Orono High School and the starting second baseman at the University of Maine his freshman year. He continued his career for one year at Valencia Community College before moving on to Florida Southern. Florida Southern would go on to win the 1978 NCAA Division II national championship with Butterfield as their second baseman.
Brian was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Yankees in 1979. He played in 397 minor league games over five seasons in the New York (1979-82) and San Diego (1983) systems, earning MVP honors in 1981 for High-A Ft. Lauderdale.
When his playing days ended, the transition to coaching was a natural move given the family pedigree. “I told myself when I was in pro ball, that somebody would have to release me twice before I thought about doing something else,” said Butterfield. “That time finally came, and I decided that if I wasn’t good enough to play then I would want to stay in baseball and coach.”
With his father’s successful career in coaching and player development, it seemed fitting that Brian would follow in his father’s footsteps. Butterfield learned his craft from a lot of great baseball minds but explained that a lot of who he is as a coach and the drills he utilizes today came directly from his father.
“I know it’s kind of a skewed view point, but Dad was the best leader, baseball guy and father that a man could be,” Butterfield said. “We are all products of our environment and I was blessed to live and learn under his roof.”
Butterfield started his coaching career in 1983 with the New York Yankees as a roving infield instructor. He managed for parts of six seasons in the Yankees organization before finding his way to the major leagues in 1994 as Buck Showalter’s first base coach.
When Showalter was fired by the Yankees after the 1995 season and named the first manager of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, he brought several Yankees’ instructors with him, including Butterfield, to implement the D-backs player development program. Butterfield was named roving minor league infield instructor and then, in 1997, manager of the D-backs’ rookie league team. Butterfield then became the Diamondbacks’ first third-base coach and served under Showalter through 2000.
Butterfield returned to the Yankees as a minor league manager for two seasons before Carlos Tosca, a coaching colleague with the Diamondbacks, who had been appointed manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, hired Brian as his third-base coach in 2002.
During his 11-year tenure with Toronto, Butterfield earned a reputation as a premier infield coach and a role model of professional demeanor. “All coaches could want to stand for such a thing as respect for the game and integrity,” Butterfield said. “As a coach, we have to stand for that and instill it in the players.”
Butterfield was a finalist for the Blue Jays’ managerial opening after the 2012 season and when John Gibbons got the job, Brian joined John Farrell and the Boston Red Sox on October 30, 2012 as third-base coach. He served during the Red Sox’s 2013 world championship season, positioning infielders defensively, working with young players Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts, and helping convert Mike Napoli from catcher to first baseman, in addition to third-base coaching duties.
Returning to the Red Sox in 2014 and now in his 18th year of coaching at the major league level, Brian Butterfield’s reputation as a preeminent infield instructor, third-base coach and clubhouse role model continues to grow. “Butter is one of the best third-base coaches in the game and one of the best infield instructors. Not just from a technical standpoint, but how he establishes rapport and routines with individual infielders,” said Farrell. “Endless energy. Just a very, very good baseball guy.”
The Maine Baseball Hall of Fame is proud to open its door to this native son who continues to excel at the major league level through a matchless work ethic and single-minded dedication to improving his ballplayers every day.