Brian Butterfield Interview: Part 3

Here is the third and last part of our interview with Brian Butterfield. Part one is here and part two is here

It was a really good experience, no only getting to talk to him but I also got to watch him working with the infielders before hand. I did wimp out on one question. Since I haven't seen the Jays hit and run all season, I was going to ask if we had a sign for the hit and run, but I didn't. 

I don’t how much time you have so I thought ask questions till you ran away.

Keep firing them, I got nothing to do. We are stretching here pretty soon.

How much to the Jays rely on statistics and modeling for positioning on defense?

Well the way we do it is, I’m always open to trying new things, I’m not the smartest bear in the woods.  The one thing I rely on is video. We have what we call BATS, so we are able to watch and pull up any player and look at pitches and look at ground balls, look at line drives, look at fly balls and try to get tendencies that way.  As far as statistics go, I haven’t used that too much. I try to use my eyes as much I can.  I can tell you if a guy has range or not but I’m always open to it. I’m always until the day they take this uniform off I want to keep getting better. If somebody can present something to me that can make sense and I can work it on a computer or I can understand it, I will use it. But right now it is mostly just video and looking at spray charts and we have a good understanding on, each game we play, on how we are going to approach a guy, on how we are going to pitch him. We try to correlate, Bruce Walton and I try to get together and understand how we are going to approach all their hitters and we defense it accordingly.

It is an inexact science as much as you want to, as much as you are in the right spot, if the ball is thrown a little bit outside that zone you hoped it would be, that can mean all the difference in the world. It can be just outside the reach of the infielder.

Somedays it seems like those seeing eye singles beat us.

Exactly, it is frustrating for you and frustrating for me. It seems like there are series where wherever we put them, it is great. And then there is another series, if you put them here, they hit it there and you put there, they hit it here. That’s another great thing about this game. There are so many variables.

Is like Adam Lind last night, pounded the ball hard down the lines and they got the outs and Vernon taps one and gets an infield single. It looks like Lind is hitting the ball better?

He is, much better. That was the turning point of the game. That ball down in the corner, that’s two runs across. I thought that was the play of the game by Alberta Pujols. Pujols is pretty darn good. There is another guy that didn’t come in with a big reputation as a defender but I think he’s worked very hard to become an accomplished defender.

One for me, coaching my boy’s little league. What should they work on defense first?

For infielders I think it is important you break it right down to basics, I think that young kids, I like them to learn how to catch the ball first and foremost. Catching the ball above the belt with the fingers up in front the body with the eyes behind the glove.  From the belt down with the fingers down, learn how to catch it that way, with the hands together. You know it’s such a fast game, it looks slow because there is time looking in for pitches and there is a lot of dead time but once that ball is put into play each level that you go up the quicker the game gets and there is not a lot of margin for error so I think it is very important to learn how to move your feet properly in position to catch the ball, see the ball. Everything in this game is done with your eyes. Whether it is bunting the ball, my eyes are behind the barrow. Catching the ball my eyes are behind my glove. Catching a ground ball I’m down with my knees leaning to force my body down where my eyes are actually behind the ball again. Just getting in the right positioning.  And that takes time you know, we have guys even in the high minor leagues that are still working trying to get their footwork right. But I would break down things because there not easy. Let’s spend some time on learning how to catch the ball. Move the feet to the right position. Learn how to make the exchange, taking the ball out of the glove because that’s very important. It’s a lot of simple stuff. I don’t have a lot of gimmicks. If you break it down and break it down simply and then just try to advance. A lot of my work, even with professional ball players, is done from short range. I start with a short fungo right around the mound, if I’m working my shortstops, where they can hear me talk and we can have a nice relaxing environment and I can just get them some nice ground balls or even roll them some nice ground balls so they can work on their footwork. It becomes very important.

Last  year in Seattle we watched fielding practice in Seattle before the game and John McDonald is out there to the very end. That’s why he’s so good at it?

That’s exactly right, he’s the best I’ve ever been around, I’ve told this to several people in the game, he has the best work ethic and gets himself into the right position better than any infield that I’ve ever had and I’ve been blessed to be around some great ones. And it’s not a mistake for me when he makes a play in the hole that brings the house down. I don’t get as excited because it’s something I expect from him because it’s something he’s rehearched so many times. He’s rehearsed going into the hole and getting  the ball in the air as quickly as he can. He rehearses it. He rehearses it at game speed.  When you look at him after he is done taking ground balls he’s got a lather, he’s tired and he practices defense quickly at game speed the way you should. He’s the best.

I liked your interview on the radio after the game that McDonald hit the home run.

Thank you. I appreciate that. You know it’s funny when you start talking about your spiritual side. Start talking about God, you talk spiritual, some people get a little nervous. But, I’ll never back up from talking about why I’m here.

Your sister told me to ask about the Partriots?

(laughs). I’m a die hard. You know it’s funny because there’s some people can coach 12 months a year.  They can do the big league and go to Venezuela, like Nick Leyva, he manages in the winter and he does it 12 months a year. I couldn’t do that. I’m fried at the end of our season and I have a nice side line I loved always. I grew up in a baseball/football family. My dad was a baseball/football coach, my uncle was a football coach, so I was around it a lot. So it’s my love. It’s one of my loves, I mean baseball is my first love but football is right here, just behind, and it’s sitting here, and it’s something to get my mind off of really grinding it out here for 8 months or how many ever. Feburary to October, 7-8 months. I’ve just always been enamored with it. I love it. We get a lot of enjoyment at our house watching the Patriots. We have people over and we have a nice TV set up, four TVs down in the basement. It’s a lot of fun. We’ve had a lot of good memories.  I think my sons, not by their choice, they’ve become real die hard football fans too.

Patriot fans too?

Oh yeah, they get no choice in that one.  Chris the younger one was a San Fransico 49er fan back in the day when they were dominate I always called him a front runner so I think he gave in and turned to the Patriots after that.

With my dad we were the opposite, he hated the Canadians so my brother and I became fans.

That’s usually the way it happens.

Could I ask about that band? (He was wearing a blue rubber band on his wrist).

Johnny Mac’s dad, and he was a umpire for a long time and he wore number 25. Johnny was wearing this band about a month ago and I said ‘do you have any more of those’ . He brought this one out for me, I’ve worn it ever since. I’ll wear it for the rest of the year,  in honor of Jack Mac 25 and Johnny.

That’s all I had.

Beautiful, I enjoyed it Tom.

Thank you very much.

Definitely. I’m going to have to put you on my favorites now.  I’ll be looking for it. 

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