Sox C Butler dancing as fast as he can

March, 4, 2012
3/04/12
12:58
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- From this, champions are made:

You know I know how
The club can’t handle me right now
To make 'em stop and stare as I zone out
The club can’t even handle me right now
Watchin' you I'm watchin' you we go all out
The club can’t even handle me right now (yeahhhhh)
The club can’t even handle me right now (yeahhhhh)


This may have been a little out of Dan Butler's comfort zone, but this was the Flo Rida song the Red Sox rookie catcher danced to when he won the team's Dancing with the Stars competition Friday night. Boston.com has a selection of photos here.

"He was terrific, He really was terrific," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, the noted ballroom dancer. "He did the whole thing. He came out -- 'I can't dance, I'm shy, I got nothing' -- (but) he had a feminine side to him, terrific rhythm to him. At the end, he had the whole gamut."

The critics in the clubhouse were not quite as generous.

"Terrible, terrible,'' said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who said he was the one who informed Butler that he'd be dancing. "That’s why he won. They were all terrible. It was all about whoever had more fun with it. The mere fact that he was really trying to dance gave him the edge.''

In a way, Butler has been dancing as fast as he can just to keep up. His freshman year at the University of Arizona, he blew out the elbow in his throwing arm and required Tommy John surgery. He came back from that operation OK, but never made it past backup catcher status with the Wildcats. He returned for his senior year at Arizona, went undrafted, and showed up in the Cape league, where he was just saving the place for another catcher until he finished with the College World Series.

But things finally began to break his way when he joined the Brewster Whitecaps. That's when the Red Sox took notice, and Butler was signed as a non-drafted free agent by Matt Mahoney.

"It was honestly the same week that they contacted me that I signed,'' said Butler, who signed for the princely sum of $10,000. "As soon as they contacted me, it was pretty much done.

"We made it pretty clear when I signed that I wasn't signing to be a roster filler for an injured person,'' Butler said. "They told me I'd have an opportunity. I said, 'OK, fair enough.' As long as I get an opportunity, that's all that matters. It just so happened the opportunity worked out, and here we are right now.''

On the face of it, just being in his first big-league camp is a remarkable achievement for a guy with the kind of obstacle course Butler was forced to navigate.

"I never thought about it not working out,'' he said. "I never saw anything as a setback. I had an elbow problem, but that's about the only setback I ever had.''

Even that injury, which happened on a routine throw during a pregame drill, Butler found a way to turn to his advantage. As a freshman, he was on the pudgy side.

"A little pudgy is an understatement,'' he said. "Let's just say I was a little fat kid. I ate a lot of food, didn’t really pay attention to diet. I always used that as an excuse, but once my elbow popped, I turned it around. I went from about 220 to 180, then built it back up from there. I play between 205 and 210.''

The Sox demonstrated their confidence in Butler in 2010, when injuries depleted their inventory of catchers and they called him up from Single-A Greenville to Pawtucket. The assignment was for just a few days, but nonetheless it signaled their belief that he could handle an advanced level defensively.

He began last season in high-A Salem, was promoted to Portland for 21 games, and made a cameo appearance with Pawtucket. His bat still needs work -- he hit just .212 in Portland -- and he has Ryan Lavarnway and Luis Exposito ahead of him on the Sox depth chart, but by now, this kid has shown he puts little stock in the odds he may be facing.

"I've always thought of my situation as 'you never know,''' he said. "I just want to play. You have to go every day out there and prove to them you belong here. I don't have to prove to them I don’t belong here.''

Does it take a little stubbornness to do it his way? "I guess a little,'' he said. "But I'm not a stubborn person.''

Unbowed, yes. One step follows another, and before you know it, you're dancing with the stars.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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