PORTLAND — If homecomings always played out perfectly as the one Brian Butterfield experienced in 2013, life would be a lot less complex.

And everybody would be doing it.

Deep into a career that has occupied a portion of five different decades, having spent time with the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays, Butterfield returned to New England and joined forces with the Boston Red Sox.

The Bangor native couldn’t have dreamed up better timing. He coached third base during Boston’s ascent from worst-to-first and its third World Series title in 10 years.

“I grew up in this area, so I always had a fondness for the Red Sox,” Butterfield said during an appearance at a recent Portland Sea Dogs charity event. “Then to get there and be treated the way I was treated by the people upstairs, and (manager) John Farrell, and the players were a great group of guys. I expected it to be nice, but it was beyond my expectations.”

Life could have played out differently. Butterfield, 56, twice was a finalist for the Blue Jays’ managerial post.


Toronto hired Farrell, instead, prior to 2011. Butterfield was in line again two years later when Farrell was lured away to replace Bobby Valentine in Boston. After the Jays brought John Gibbons on board, Butterfield followed Farrell to Fenway Park.

Even though his new club was coming off a disastrous 69-93 season in Valentine’s embattled, lone campaign, Butterfield saw signs of the unlikely turnaround a year ago in spring training.

“Just listening and seeing the guys and the way they were, the way they endorsed the things we did, it was like a reaffirmation,” Butterfield said. “You look at teams, and a team is more than superstar players. A team is guys that are pulling the same way. You could see that right away. With our pitching and the way that we catch the ball, you knew there was a chance.”

After years of chasing the dream, including lengthy stints in the minor leagues as a player, manager and roving instructor, Butterfield was thrilled to have his family in close proximity for the pinnacle of his career to date.

“My son, my wife, my grandbabies, to see them come to Fenway Park and see how overjoyed they were to see us succeed was special,” he said. “That was a blessing. I’ve been around with different organizations, with the Yankees and Diamondbacks and Toronto for a long time, but to come back home to New England and do what we did in my first year there was definitely special.”

Family was a crucial element in getting Butterfield into the game.


His father, Jack, led the University of Maine baseball program for 20 years. Jack Butterfield was named NCAA coach of the year and led Maine to the College World Series in 1964. Later, he was working as vice president of player development and scouting for the Yankees when he was killed in a November 1979 auto accident.

Brian’s uncle, Jim, also coached college football.

“I think we’re all products of our environment. I was blessed to be raised under a great roof. I was able to see my dad, see how he led, see how he was with people,” Butterfield said. “And along the way I’ve been blessed to play for good coaches, in high school, in college, in all sports. In pro baseball I’ve been around great people. If you keep your eyes and ears open, there’s a chance you’re going to pick up some good things along the way.”

Baseball’s reigning champions exhibit that flow of positive energy from veterans to young players.

Butterfield watched the steady parade of newcomers — most notably rookies Jackie Bradley Jr., Brandon Workman, Xander Bogaerts and second-year Will Middlebrooks — who respected their place in the 2013 puzzle.

“Sometimes young people are in the right situation, but they don’t stop long enough to hear what the good people around them are saying and see how they’re doing it. It’s real important to be quiet for a while and listen and learn,” Butterfield said. “Hats off to the front office and our scouting department and our player development guys that have worked with those young guys.


“I think they’ve done a good job not only getting the good athletes but guys with high character, the ones that want to work. Even the young guys that came up to the big leagues, you could tell their eyes and ears were open. They were respectful to what went on. They learned that way. It was kind of a mutual admiration.”

Butterfield’s bread-and-butter has been his acumen as an infield defensive instructor. That knowledge was critical to the Sox’s success, as well.

Mike Napoli completed his successful transition from catcher to first base. Dustin Pedroia won a Gold Glove. Stephen Drew’s rock-solid play at shortstop saved runs throughout the playoffs. And Bogaerts bounced successfully between third base and shortstop after his late-summer call-up.

The only constant in the era of free agency is change, of course, and the Sox didn’t stand pat in 2014.

Drew is departed. A.J. Pierzynski replaces Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the catching platoon. Grady Sizemore joins the outfield mix. Edward Mujica strengthens an already stacked bullpen.

“The one thing that makes you feel real optimistic going in is that nucleus is back. Those guys in the clubhouse that say and do the right things. That always makes you feel good when you’re getting ready to go into battle, because it’s a long season,” Butterfield said. “When you have guys who are tough, intelligent, highly competitive and unselfish, you’ve got a chance. I think that we’re all going to go in there knowing that we’ve got a chance with those people leading the way.”

And the last guy they all see when heading for home? Proven leader, himself.

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