Reflections of Derek Jeter — by Brian Butterfield
August 21, 2014 – On the same day that I interviewed David Ortiz for a vignette on Derek Jeter (see blog entry below), I spoke with Boston Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield about the captain.
Butterfield, who coached in the Yankees minor league system for several years, worked closely with Jeter at a crucial time. After making 56 errors during his first year of professional baseball, Jeter was assigned to the instructional league (in the autumn of 1992). According to Jeter, it was under Butterfield’s direction that he made the improvements necessary to ultimately become a major league shortstop.
From the infield at Fenway Park, Butterfield spoke with me about his experiences in working with Jeter day in and day out and hitting more ground balls to the young shortstop than anyone could count.
–Alfred Santasiere III
I began coaching Derek when he was 19 years old. He was a good athlete, but the thing that stood out about him the most, especially as he was around other guys, was the type of personality he had. He was energetic, and he had a great sense of humor. The young guys and the old guys at instructional league gravitated to him. The coaches were always hanging around him to hear what he had to say.
When I began working with Derek, he was coming off a season in which he had made 56 errors. He wasn’t able to work on hitting because he had hurt his wrist, and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He had to work exclusively on defense for about a month and a half.
He went out there ready to work and with a smile on his face.
We would get out on the field early in the morning and stay out there until noon. We worked on Derek’s footwork, on catching ground balls, on catching the ball backhanded and on attacking slow rollers. We watched video of the morning session, and then we’d go back out in the afternoon. More than anything else, it was obvious early on that Derek wanted to become a great player and that he had great aptitude. At the end of every day, he was a better player than when he got out there.
I’m proud to have worked with Derek. He has impacted my life a lot more than I could have ever impacted his because he’s quick to give other people credit for everything that’s happened in his career.