Passing on a chance to pitch for the Kentucky Wildcats in the Southeastern Conference, Butler instead decided to start his professional career.
The Cardinals sent Butler to the Gulf Coast League where he excelled. The 20-year-old recorded six saves while striking out 34 in 28.1 innings. The circuit hit only.182 against the Kentucky native. Before his season was done, he was promoted to Johnson City where he would appear in two games. Pitching an inning in each, Butler did not allow a hit as he struck out four Appy League hitters.
I had a chance to speak with Keith recently before the end of his first professional season.
Dustin Mattison: Tell me about your early professional baseball experience.
Keith Butler: It has been great. I had to make a decision to go to Kentucky or go pro. If I knew what it was like here, there would have been no decision because I want to be here.
DM: Is there anything that stands out as being really surprising?
KB: Not really. Nothing has really changed. It is just a different level.
DM: Tell me about draft day. Were the Cardinals the team you expected to pick you?
KB: Yeah. I was at school, watching it on the computer. I was sitting there waiting for the call.
DM: Was it the scout that contacted you?
KB: Yes. He called me and asked me if the money was right and I told him that is what I wanted.
DM: Tell me about your repertoire.
KB: Fastball, changeup, and slider.
DM: Most of the recent draft picks I have talked to have started working on the sinker. Have the Cardinals had you start working on the pitch as well?
KB: Yes, they have.
DM: You were a reliever in college and are doing the same since turning professional. Is that where you are most comfortable?
KB: However they want to use me is fine with me but I do feel more comfortable coming out of the bullpen.
DM: Did you have much free time to make it down to the beach?
KB: After the game, you are usually pretty tired. So we go back and take a nap and by the time we get up it is nighttime.
DM: You grew up in Morgantown, KY, in the heart of Cardinal territory. Did you grow up a Cardinal fan?
KB: No, I have always been an Atlanta Braves fan. It is a family thing, my dad, my uncle, and my cousins have always been Braves fans.
DM: What did you know about the Cardinal organization before the team drafted you?
KB: I knew that they are a young team and have always been one of the top teams.
DM: When you are not playing baseball, how do you like to spend your time?
KB: I like to hang out with the guys.
DM: If you were not a baseball player, what career would you be pursuing?
KB: I wanted to become a teacher so that I could teach baseball.
DM: How much do the guys in the minor leagues watch the happenings in the organization at the big league level?
KB: We watch the games to evaluate how our games are similar or different to the big league games.
DM: What should Cardinal fans know about you that they don't know?
KB: My girlfriend is from St. Louis and she always told me that one day I would be drafted by the Cardinals. She has been pretty excited about all of this.
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