Bees Reliever Finds Renewed Passion For Baseball With Season Away

Apr 18, 2022, 4:00 PM
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 04: Ty Buttrey #31 of the Los Angeles Angels throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of the MLB spring training baseball game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 04, 2021 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

SALT LAKE CITY – When Angels relief pitcher Ty Buttrey decided to leave baseball shortly before the 2021 season, he didn’t know where life would take him.

“I needed to reset, I needed time away. I needed to just do other things, try different things out there,” Buttrey said about his decision to walk away from the game.  “And so I did, and I realized how much this game, how much I don’t want to say take it took it for granted. I definitely wasn’t looking at this game in the in the way I should have.”

Buttrey had played baseball since he was four years old. He had been in professional baseball since the Boston Red Sox selected him out of high school in 2012. He made his Major League debut with the Los Angeles Angels in August of 2018, allowing one hit in an inning of work.

115 big league appearances later, Buttrey had lost his passion for the game. ” I knew I wasn’t excited to show up and play ball, which was a weird feeling. I was hyper focusing on things I couldn’t control. And that really takes a toll on someone.”

Buttrey turned to his wife Samantha and parents for support as he processed the emotions.

“It was transpiring over a few weeks. And then it came to a point where I was like, ‘Something’s off,  this doesn’t feel right.’ I told my wife, ‘this feeling isn’t going away.’ I talked to my parents, I talked to my agent, talked to the club. Everyone kind of said, let’s sleep on this a little bit more. Let’s hold this, let’s not make any emotional decisions.” Buttrey explained, “But for me, it was something that was a long time coming,”

After announcing his retirement on April 3, 2021, Buttrey wasn’t sure what would come next.

“I don’t have a college degree. I don’t really have too much business or any other type of experience besides baseball. So it was kind of going into no man’s land and everyone wished me the best of luck and my wife and I made the best of it.”

Buttrey and his wife returned to their home in St. Petersburg and began a life outside of baseball. It didn’t take long for the need to stay busy to lead the couple to their next step.

“I was sitting at the house for a week or two, I was like, let’s do something, I gotta get a job. I want to start something, I want to do something. I want to go travel, I want to get away, just want to do something.”

A former professional dancer, Samantha found an opportunity to to teach dance on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. After some discussion, the pair decided to pull the trigger on a move. “It was kind of like, why not type of deal. I just left baseball, we’re already kind of doing our own thing. Let’s just keep it going. And we did.”

After finding a place to live on the island and getting settled, Buttrey started to notice something as he explored St. Croix. “We started noticing baseball fields but no players.”

After a chance meeting with Senator Javan James, one thing led to another and the idea of a baseball academy was born. “The kids were awesome. The people, they were awesome.  I met Javan James, the senator. We started talking about ball and I was like, I want to bring baseball to St. Croix, I want to help. There’s some studs here. I want these kids getting scholarships. I have the resources and I have the knowledge and I want to help.”

Following eight months of planning, Buttrey had built a non-profit organization that launched an 85 person camp on St. Croix that included baseball & softball skills lessons but also real life lessons on topics like financial literacy, mental skills & tactics, social media literacy etc.

Buttrey said of the effort to not only focus on baseball in the camp, “We decided okay, like, baseball is awesome. Softball is awesome, but let’s make this camp different; let’s teach these kids how to be professional. So it was a cool element. And then we did a camp on St. Thomas. And now we’re doing one in Honduras. Everything that happened, we just kind of went with it. And we helped some kids out, which was the best part.”

“I saw the separator between kids in the States and the kids down in the islands was lack of facilities, lack of equipment and a lack of consistent coaching.” Buttrey believes the guidance and resources offered by his camps can make a difference.  “If these kids have the tools, they can become major league athletes. The girls can get scholarships to go play; but if they don’t do that, then let’s have something to fall back on with it. That’s why we do the skills program.”

Working with kids in the camp on St. Croix and later on St. Thomas reinvigorated Buttrey’s passion. “I loved it. It didn’t feel like work. It didn’t feel monotonous. It just felt like it was just pure passion. And when I got home, my wife and I felt we just were on cloud nine.”

After returning to the states in December, Buttrey contacted his agent and the Los Angeles Angels about resuming his baseball career. He worked with former Angels pitching coach Doug White through the 99-day MLB lockout this winter and reported to spring training with the Angels in March. On April 2, just days before Opening Day, Buttrey was optioned to the Angels Triple-A affiliate Salt Lake Bees. Two weeks later, Buttrey appeared in a game for the first time since he had walked away, pitching a scoreless eighth inning against the Las Vegas Aviators.

Asked what advice he would offer to somebody who finds themselves unhappy and in need of a change, “I missed a year, but I’m coming back with a perspective of just confidence in who I am as a person. I don’t feel like I’m a mirror anymore. I always felt like I was changing who I was for being around a certain person acting a different way, being around this person act in another way. And so people that do that, it’s tough to stay centered. Everyone’s trying to be somebody else. And I just, I challenge people to find themselves a routine that works for them. Whether it’s a daily routine or nightly routine. Do a little meditation, some breath work. You’ll be in a good spot.”

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