March 27, 2013
Butler left humbled by Hall of Fame nod
This was not an honor Bill Butler was actively seeking or ever expecting.
That is why the 73-year-old from Homer felt so humbled after being selected to join the Francis Mott New York State Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame, where he will be inducted in the Class of 2013 this coming Oct. 12 in ceremonies being held at the Holiday Inn in Utica.
“When they come to you, it is an honor,” said Butler, who received a letter from District 8 Commissioner Jose Lopez earlier this month notifying him of the Hall of Fame selection.
Francis Mott is an Oswego native who has been the New York State ASA commissioner since 1979. The purpose of the Softball Hall of Fame is to give recognition to those who have had successful careers while also contributing to the development and growth of the sport.
Butler has had a successful softball career, having first started playing with a Dryden town team at age 16.
Locally, he played for fastpitch teams like Glenn’s TV, Morgan Sunoco, Gel-Flo and Hiawatha Inn in the Pioneer League. His last fastpitch game played was as a 62-year-old for the Red Dragon here in Cortland.
In more recent summers, he has been a member of the Syracuse Cyclones team that has participated in six World Senior Slowpitch Championships held at Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, Michigan and Florida locales. By his own calculations, Butler’s fastpitch and slowpitch play has taken him to 30 states as well as Canada.
“I liked to play against the highest caliber I could get,” he says.
Being a contributor to the development and growth of softball also fits the Butler profile.
One reason he hasn’t played more recently is that for the past 12 seasons he has been involved as a volunteer for the Cornell University women’s softball team under head coach Dick Blood — and just returned from a Florida spring trip with the Big Red.
When he was soon to retire as a worker at Pall Trinity Micro years back, Butler saw Cornell was interviewing for a softball coaching position and took a stab at the job.
“They didn’t hire me for that particular job, but they asked me if I was interested in working clinics,” he said. So Butler helped conduct softball clinics as well as working Cornell’s summer camps, which led to him eventually being a volunteer assistant under Coach Blood.
“They treated me great. Not just the coaches, but the entire school,” he said of his Cornell experience. He was part of Big Red teams who won three Ivy League titles and made three NCAA tournament appearances.
Butler is a part-timer with Cornell these days, and also works individually with players such as recent Homer Central graduate Katie Sinclair who is now a softball player at St. Bonaventure.
Being an instructor is where Butler’s softball reputation has grown, which is why District Commissioner Ray Houck from Chittenango approached him about possible Hall of Fame consideration. “He went to bat for me,” said Butler.
Getting praise from surprising sources like Houck, and a current Stetson University assistant who singled out Butler during Cornell’s recent Florida trip to offer some praise, is especially heart-warming.
“People have come to me to tell me I’ve been considered as one of the better hitting coaches around, and this is even in Division I,” he noted. “Until someone from the outside tells you, you don’t realize that people are looking at you in that capacity.”
Butler excelled at baseball, football and basketball at Homer Central, and his 38 points scored against Marathon in the 1958-59 basketball season is still a shared single-game school record.
After a stint in the Army in the early 1960s, where he played softball on a team in Texas that reached the state finals, Butler played semi-pro baseball for Tom Berardi’s Cortland Merchants squad that was affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles. When summer baseball began fading out in the late 1960s, where Butler played for Homer and Cortland town teams and even coached the latter squad for a season, softball became his passion. Besides being a player, he has also umpired both baseball and softball games locally.
Butler and wife Marna raised three daughters and have eight grandchildren, including Stephanie Hartquist who was an all-state softball performer at Homer who went on to have a successful career as a Colgate University third baseman. Hartquist is currently on the SUNY Cortland softball coaching staff.
Her grandfather cut down on his coaching to watch Hartquist’s senior season at Colgate, and he has conducted recent clinics with her — which is equally rewarding. No wonder Hall of Famer Butler says, “I’ve had fun with softball.”
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