Wabash Valley College baseball coach Rob Fournier was one of the first people Keith Butler telephoned to tell him the good news: he had just been called up by the St. Louis Cardinals.
“We talked as soon as he got off the plane in St. Louis,” said Fournier of the player he last managed at WVC in 2009 before he was drafted in the 24th round of that year’s amateur draft by St. Louis. “He was the same old Keith Butler” in that he sounded much like the even-keel player he recalled, according to Fournier.
It had been a bizarre few hours for Butler, who was invited to spring training this year by the Cardinals only to be sent to Class AA Springfield after his time in Jupiter, Fla.
His team had just arrived in Midland, Texas at 4 a.m. on Friday to begin a Texas League Series there against the Rockhounds. That was less than an hour after the Cardinals had finished a 4-2 loss to Kansas City in a game delayed by five-plus hours because of rain.
At 7 a.m. he was awakened and told the Cardinals were calling him up after struggling reliever Mitchell Boggs, who took the loss against the Royals, had been sent down to Triple-A Memphis. He was in St. Louis by early afternoon, getting his locker assignment and No. 65 uniform.
“Obviously, [I’m] on a high right now,” Butler told mlb.com. “Got to get that first [appearance] out of the way and build off that.”
The Cards were rained out on Friday night against San Francisco, but made his first major league appearance on Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader.
He pitched one scoreless inning, allowing a leadoff walk before notching his first strikeout. The ball was thrown to the dugout to be presented to Butler after the game. After giving up a hit, Butler closed the inning out to seal the Redbirds ninth shutout of the season.
“I said, ‘All right, just go out and treat it the same as any other outing,’” Butler said.
“It wasn’t really much different running out there. But when I got to the mound, I did a turnaround to take it in a little bit. It was by far the best feeling ever.”
Butler’s parents had made the trip from Bowling Green, Ky. and were on hand.
“I was more nervous than he was,” said Fournier of Butler’s relief effort after watching it on TV. He plans to meet with Butler at a game this week.
Butler followed that up with an even better showing on Sunday. He pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in a game won by the Giants, 4-2.
Butler becomes the second ex-Warrior to make the bigs during Fournier’s tenure. The other, Ross Wilson of the Texas Rangers, won his first major league start on May 22, blanking Oakland 10-0 after spending parts of the last six years as a reliever with Miami (then Florida in 2007) and Oakland (in 2010).