Butera Earns His Stripes

Butera Earns His Stripes

As his team works to turn its season around, Butera's role expands as an offensive threat, the manager of the pitching staff and as a team leader. He has lived up to his own preseason expectations by both his play and intangibles. Inside Pitch revisited the St. Lucie backstop just days after he was announced as a Florida State League All-Star.

"I was really excited; it's an honor," said Drew Butera of his All-Star selection. "It was always one of my goals to make the All-Star team. It's something I really worked hard towards. I want to keep improving myself and this is one big step."

That recognition came after months of grinding work from the start of camp through now. As he entered his first season in St. Lucie, he wanted to demonstrate how he grew from Hagerstown where he hit just a meager .186 in 95 games. Butera's reputation preceded him as a strong defender, but tagged him as a weak offensive producer.

"I thought my offense needed work. I've always been known as a defensive catcher, but I've always known I could hit. I was in a slump the last few years, but my offense needed maturing on my part as well as adjusting to the professional environment," he explained.

Much of his improvement can be traced back to his intensified conditioning. Two months away from his 24th birthday, Butera enters his physical peak. He vigorously hit the weight room in the off-season to ensure added strength to his legs and his upper body. The latter has attributed to his current .255 batting average, four home runs and team leading 13 doubles. In addition to increased mass, he altered his approach at the plate.

"I felt my approach offensively has been better. I used to go up there free swinging and without a plan. In camp, I worked on improving patience, focus and consistency. Combining those factors has helped me a lot. I worked the weights hard in the off-season on my body, my eye, my game plan and that's what's helped my hitting," he said.

While his advancements at the plate have proved beneficial, his growth behind the plate pays the largest dividends to his team. The St. Lucie rotation has its fair share of hurlers under 23-years-old as they fight through the demands of professional baseball. This is where Butera's experience and leadership plays a valuable role.

"I would like to think I provide a calming voice. We all have pretty good relationships with each other and we're close on and off the field. I think they look at me as a leader in game calling and they trust my judgment during the game," he said.

In that trust is how he has grown into a more well-rounded battery mate. He has become more secure in his ability to call games as well as keep his pitchers on track. He finds a happy medium between his own game plan and his pitchers'. His in-game management will be one of the largest determining in his future.

"Even the greatest catchers, I think, would say it took them a while to learn how to handle a rotation and decisions in-game," Butera said of his position. "We talk a lot in pre-game about how we want to handle hitters, working counts, and helping the pitchers stick to their routines. The talking never stops before, during and after the game."

At 23-33, and looking up at the entire FSL East, the Mets will go as far as their young rotation, who will be heavily relied upon in the second half of the season. Although they took their lumps in the first eight weeks of the season, with Butera's steady presence behind the dish, the staff will have a solid partner.

"I've seen a lot of maturity in our young pitchers. We have a very young staff and these guys have taken on roles that may beyond their talent level. You usually don't see pitchers under 20-years-old at this level, and we've got them. I think that speaks to their maturity. Everybody, for me, has thrown great. We've had our bad luck, but they've pitched far above my expectations of them," detailed Butera

He may have his work cut out for him in the batter's box, but as a branch of the St. Lucie rotation, his value is extremely significant. However, with stiff competition within the organization at his position, he will require even greater refinement of his game. That is, if he is to complete his ultimate goal of reaching the big leagues with the Mets.

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