Butera continues family tradition in Minnesota

Butera continues family tradition in Minnesota

Butera continues family tradition in Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS -- Since the Twins moved to Minnesota in 1961, there has been only one father-son combination in the organization's history.

That's why catcher Drew Butera understands how special it is to be following in his dad's footsteps. His father, Sal Butera, played with the Twins from 1980-83 and '87 in a big league career that spanned nine years.

"He had a lot of influence on my life, from baseball to how to tie my shoes," Drew said. "He always tried to lead me in the right direction and show me what to do. And it was both on and off the field. I think I'm the person and the player I am today because of him."

Sal, who currently works as a special assistant to Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, said it's a thrill to see his son playing for his former team. He's also happy with how Drew has handled himself along the way.

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"It's a very proud feeling any dad would have of their son regardless of what they do," Sal said. "But it's nice to see him accomplish his goals -- he's done everything he's set out to do and then some -- and he's remained the same way, which to me is his greatest strength. He's probably a better person than he is a player. And that's not a knock against his playing. He's just a good person and teammate, and I give my wife a lot of credit for that."

Drew, though, wasn't always destined to play for the Twins, as he was drafted by the Mets in the fifth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

The Twins traded for him in '07 in the deal that sent infielder Luis Castillo to New York. Drew made his big league debut with Minnesota three years later on April 9, 2010.

"It was cool to have some history behind me when I was traded, knowing that [my dad] played for them and managed for them in the Minor Leagues," Drew said. "So it was nice just knowing about the organization and how they treat people."

Sal's ties to the Twins go back to when he was signed as an amateur free agent by the club in 1972.

Minnesota farm director Jim Rantz was the assistant farm director back then. Sal played alongside current Twins general manager Terry Ryan in the Minors for two seasons at Double-A Orlando from 1975-76.

Sal made his debut in 1980 and played three seasons in Minnesota before bouncing around with the Tigers, Expos and Reds and finally returning to the Twins in '87. He played alongside current manager Ron Gardenhire for a spell at Triple-A Portland that season and played in 51 games with the Twins that year to earn a World Series ring.

Sal is more than comfortable with the organization, and believes it's been a great fit for his son, who is now in his third season with the Twins.

"The history I have with this organization is really good," Sal said. "A lot of the same people are still here that I respected, and that I think are really good baseball people. I think Drew's game has really evolved in this organization. ... I know he's in good hands. I know he respects them, and I think they respect the job he brings to the table every day."

Drew, who has been known as a defense-first catcher throughout his career, is enjoying his best numbers offensively this year. It's come after he started the season at Triple-A Rochester.

"His offense has been a work in progress his whole career, but this is probably the best he's been," Sal said. "He really feels comfortable. I think being sent down at the beginning of the year, as much as it was a surprise, was a blessing."

Drew, for his part, said he's happy to have his dad to lean on for guidance. Sal doesn't force any advice on him, but he's always just a phone call away. Sal also tries to get to as many games as he can in his scouting role with the Blue Jays.

Drew said the conversations are always good-natured, but that his dad isn't afraid to remind him who has the lone World Series ring in the family.

"It happens all the time," Drew said with a laugh. "We'll get into the who's better at this, who's better at that thing, and then he'll show me his ring. And then I can't say anything."

The two also made history this year, as they became the first father-son duo to each pitch in a game as a position player.

Drew tossed a scoreless inning with a strikeout against the Brewers on May 20, while Sal pitched a scoreless inning for Montreal in 1985 and for Cincinnati in '86. But Drew said his dad teases him about that feat as well.

"He has one more scoreless inning, so he throws that at me, too," Butera said with a smile.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.