Centennial grad named All-American with Navy SS Butler anchored Mids for four years

June 25, 1993|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

When Todd Butler (Centennial) leaves for Newport, R.I., next week to begin his five-year service commitment, the 22-year-old Naval Academy graduate leaves behind an ample baseball legacy.

Butler recently earned third-team All-America honors from the College Baseball Writers Association -- the first All-American midshipman in baseball since Drew Tanner in 1986.

Butler played all but two games during four seasons of varsity baseball and compiled a consecutive game streak of 122.

Butler set a school single-season record with 18 doubles and a school career record with 41 doubles.

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound shortstop opened eyes from the first day he stepped on a field at Navy. As a freshman Butler beat out a junior for the starting shortstop job.

"I was recruited for baseball but I had no guarantees that I'd start right away," Butler said.

That wasn't the first time Butler had won a shortstop job. During his Dayton Raiders American Legion baseball days he forced Chris Grubb (recently drafted by the Montreal Expos) to move from shortstop to second base.

Butler, The Sun's Howard County Baseball Player of the Year his junior season at Centennial High, remembers those American Legion days fondly.

"I really developed my skills during those summer leagues," he said. "That's where it all started for me. I had a really good coach [Steve Walker]."

Dayton won six straight district titles under Walker and his assistant, Marvin Whittaker. Butler played in two state tournaments and recalls how painful it was to miss a third because he had to report to the Naval Academy.

But he says he'd repeat his Naval Academy experience.

"I've gotten a great education and grown up in a lot of ways here," he said. "And whenever we traveled we wore our uniforms, so everyone knew you were with the Navy baseball program and there was a lot of pride in the program."

One of his regrets is that because he played at the Naval Academy his chances of being drafted by a professional team were almost non-existent. He would like to know if he is good enough to have been drafted.

"But with a five-year service commitment ahead, teams are not going to come after me," he said. "It's a shame because we had a couple of guys capable of being drafted."

Butler, team captain this season, possesses all the prerequisites for an outstanding shortstop -- good arm, good hands, good range and plenty of speed. He made only four errors this season after an 18-error junior season.

"Our new assistant coach, Bob McDonald, helped me a lot by pushing fundamentals, and I changed my throwing motion. I throw more sidearm now," Butler said. "I also worked hard on my backhand."

Butler underwent shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff before his junior season, and he feels that contributed to the 18 errors a year ago.

"I tore it right at the end of my sophomore year," he said.

Although fielding was his strength, Butler was a complete player. He batted .353 with five homers, 23 RBI, 42 runs scored, 10 doubles, a triple and a .463 on-base percentage this season. He walked 18 times and was hit by a pitch eight times. He stole seven bases in eight attempts.

A weight-lifting program the past two years helped improve his power numbers.

Butler's career stats include a .303 batting average, 142 hits, 123 runs, 67 RBI, 41 doubles, four triples, eight homers, 90 walks, 79 strikeouts, 15 hit by pitches, seven sacrifice bunts and six sacrifice flies. He stole 26 bases in 32 attempts.

Always a competitor and a natural team leader, his 122-consecutive game playing streak ended when he was hit on the wrist by a pitch during a Georgetown game.

Butler missed the following double-header against Bucknell.

But he returned to the lineup for a double-header against Army by wearing a Plexiglas cast. Because he was unable to grip a bat right-handed, he batted left-handed.

"It was the first time I ever batted left-handed, but Army is such a big game I didn't want to miss it," he said. He went hitless in four at-bats.

Navy never beat Army in baseball during Butler's seasons -- a big disappointment for him.

Navy (21-18) did win the Southern Division of the newly formed Patriot League this past season, a triumph that helped soothe the Army losses.

Ensign Butler will attend surface warfare school at Newport until Jan. 1, and then take intelligence and communications classes before heading to San Diego in March for two years of sea duty.

Butler hopes to coach baseball at the Naval Academy Prep School after he returns.

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