Butler to go from Raider to Stinger

Richmond Senior pitcher to pursue business degree in Florence

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — Joe Butler is provided two scenarios.

In one, he comes on in relief and gives up five hits, four walks while striking out six. He hands the game over to a relief pitcher in the seventh inning. Though his team’s up 4-1, the bases are loaded and there are no outs.

In another, his team cruises to a win. Butler come on in relief and tosses 1 2/3 innings, pitching hitless ball, walking one and striking out four.

The first situation described a game earlier this month. The other came from last week. Given the choice to take the mound in either situation, Butler didn’t hesitate. He wants the pressure. He wants the chance to succeed. Or fail.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Joe Butler, seated center, is surrounded by his dad, Ralph Butler (left), and mom Andrea "Andie" Butler, right. Standing is Raiders baseball coach Ricky Young.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Joe Butler, seated center, is surrounded by his dad, Ralph Butler (left), and mom Andrea “Andie” Butler, right. Standing is Raiders baseball coach Ricky Young.

“It’s all on me now,” when coach Ricky Young hands him the ball. “I trust me more than I trust anybody else. That’s just kind of how I’ve always been.”

Butler discussed a hypothetical return to the state finals inside the Richmond Senior High School media center on a rainy Thursday morning throughout Richmond County. Butler, along with his parents, Ralph and Andrea “Andie” Butler, were on hand with Ricky Young, baseball coach and RSHS athletic director, to celebrate Joe’s commitment to Florence-Darlington Technical College in Florence, S.C.

“I’d like to be back at state again,” Joe said. “It was a great atmosphere for me.”

He’ll begin playing for Stingers coach Preston McDonald in a 20-game mini season this fall. Joe’s performance on the mound there will play a significant role in how much playing time he gets next spring as a college freshman.

Joe talked about the number of fans in the stands. In Florence, the highly regarded Stingers have plenty of fans of their own. The Stingers entered the Spring 2015 season ranked 11th by Perfect Game USA after a 34-18-1 season in 2014. This spring, Florence-Darlington started 12-1 and sports a 32-11 record through Wednesday’s rainout.

Andie Butler, his mom, talked about how her third child is graduating Richmond Senior and preparing for what comes next. Older brother Matthew is an EMT and Dalton is a junior at N.C. State University.

“The hard work (of a parent) is never over,” Andie said. “Fifteen years is good. We have been around the world and back.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Joe has played on travel teams, rec teams and middle and high school baseball, as well as special showcase tournaments in which players are put into pressure situations under the supervision of experienced coaches — and under the watchful eyes of college scouts from all over.

For years, Joe was a catcher first, said dad and Hamlet Middle School baseball coach Ralph Butler. It worked out that way primarily because of his size, but also because of a lack of team depth at various stages. That began to change when he reached high school and last year his dad couldn’t recall seeing his son catch a single inning.

“He’s done a great job with Joe,” Ralph said of Young, who will help Joe keep in shape in preparation for the fall short season.

Of course, the Raiders are in the middle of a season of their own, with hopes of following through on Joe’s goal returning to the state tournament.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Joe Butler reluctantly accepts help with his tie from his mother in preparation for a group photo announcing his commitment to Florence-Darlington Technical College in Florence, S.C.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Joe Butler reluctantly accepts help with his tie from his mother in preparation for a group photo announcing his commitment to Florence-Darlington Technical College in Florence, S.C.

“The pressure’s still on him,” Ralph said. “He’s got some big games left.”

But those high-pressure games will simply provide him with a bit of exposure, and “he’ll need to be ready for that,” Ralph said of the next level.

Ralph credited Young with seeing Joe more as a pitcher than a catcher. Young said Joe has a fastball that reaches up to 87 mph “with a plus breaking ball” that keeps hitters off balance.

Early on, Young said he felt that if Joe were given the chance to increase his body size, velocity would increase as well. He was right, and Young said Thursday he believes Joe still has a bit of room to grow.

Development

In part, that’s why Ralph believes a two-year school will be a good fit for his youngest son.

“JuCo gives him the opportunity to adjust to college both academically and athletically,” Ralph said. “I think it’s a little easier to adjust.”

Both Young and Joe’s parents know that Florence-Darlington Tech seems to be a hotbed for player development. The program is only 11 years young, and already the Stingers have had five players drafted by Major League Baseball teams and another 76 players have advanced to play at four-year schools. Two players have earned NJCAA All-America honors.

That’s the point, Ralph said. Play at one level to become good enough for the next.

Butler is the latest Raider baseball player to commit to studying and playing at the next level. Dylan Carpenter signed in February to play at Methodist University in Fayetteville. In November, Cody Mullen signed to play with Coker College in Hartsville, S.C. Earlier that same month, pitcher/shortstop Cody Leviner signed with Western Carolina University while Ethan Baucom signed with UNC-Pembroke.

 

 

Filed in: Announcements, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham, Sports

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