Team Italy catcher and designated hitter Drew Butera recently signed a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies with an invitation to Spring Training Camp in Clearwater, Florida beginning February 12, 2019. The 35-year-old MLB veteran with nine years of experience in the Big Leagues will be competing for an opening day roster spot against 27-year-old Andrew Knapp and any Phillies catching prospects as the back-up to All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.
The proud Italian American, who has represented Team Italy in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics, has an early opt-out clause of March 21, 2019 to jump ship to another MLB organization during Spring Training if a better opportunity exists elsewhere. Drew Butera is the son of Team Italy coach Sal Butera – a journeyman catcher who played 359 MLB games for the Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos and Detroit Tigers from 1980-1988. Drew Butera was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2002 MLB Draft but instead opted to play at the University of Central Florida (UCF). After throwing out 48% of potential base-stealers and hitting .325 in his last season at UCF, Drew Butera was a 2005 fifth-round draft pick by the New York Mets.
A big opera fan who used to listen to Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti in the clubhouse before games while in the Mets’ minor league system, Drew Butera was named Florida League All-Star and subsequently promoted to AA in 2007 before being traded to the Minnesota Twins—where Butera family history was made as Sal Butera and Drew Butera became the first father-son combination to play for the Minnesota Twins when he made his MLB debut on April 9, 2010.Being able to handle pitches with grace rarely seen at the Major League level while producing a calming effect on his pitching staff, Drew Butera kept Twins' lefty Francisco Liriano focused on every pitch which led him to a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox on May 3, 2011. While playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 25, 2014, Drew Butera caught Josh Beckett’s no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies and became only the fifth catcher in Major League Baseball history to catch a no-hitter in both leagues.
Drew Butera was a big hit for Team Italy in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Delivering a two-run home run that helped defeat Mexico and a two-run double that buried Canada, Drew Butera was instrumental in each of Team Italy’s victories to earn the fighting Azzurri the right to advance with Team USA to the second round of play. Drew Butera was just as effective for Team Italy in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Facing Mexico reliever Fernando Salas in the bottom of the fifth inning with Team Italy trailing 7-4, Drew Butera blasted a missile into the left field bleachers reminiscent to the home run he hit against the Mexicans in the 2013 WBC to keep the Italians in the contest. Team Italy went on to win the game in the end by a score of 10-9. Two days later later, designated hitter Drew Butera took Puerto Rico starter Jose Berrios deep in the second inning for his second 2017 WBC homer in the 9-3 Team Italy loss. Despite the Azzurri not advancing with Puerto Rico and Venezuela to the second round, Drew Butera had fond memories of his experience with Team Italy. He said, “I’ve never been more proud to play with a group of guys in my life. We left it all out on the field and had a blast doing it.” Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti