Towering Ty Buttrey has tools to make himself a pro, Panthers champions
by Aaron Garcia
In a span of less than a week last season, Ty Buttrey made pivotal plays as he helped lead the Providence High baseball team to the Southwestern 4A conference regular-season and tournament championships. He pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed just one run in each game, but it was his heroics in crunch time that made the biggest impact.
Buttrey came up to bat with the regular-season championship on the line and the game tied, 4-4, against rival Ardrey Kell and promptly delivered a walk-off single.
Six days later, and with the Panthers clinging to a one-run lead versus Myers Park in the tournament championship, Buttrey threw out the potentially tying base runner at home plate from the outfield, where he plays when not pitching, with two outs in the seventh inning for another Panthers victory.
Last year Buttrey went 7-2 on the mound and hit three home runs. This season, he believes he is a much better all-around player.
“I think I have improved a ton,” Buttrey said, “Last year was my first varsity experience and I was able to start off well but struggled some down the stretch. I have learned from my mistakes that I made, and feel I am a much better player.”
Just how dominant can Buttrey be? Take Providence’s 12-1 win over Myers Park on March 20 as an example: Buttrey improved his record on the mound to 5-0 with a four-hitter and went 2-for-2 at the plate with two home runs and four RBIs.
That is the kind of performance that has earned the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Buttrey a scholarship to the University of Arkansas and has Major League Baseball scouts enamored of his potential.
Baseball America ranks him the 87th-best high school player in the nation, and Minor League Baseball website SeedlingsToStars.com predicts Buttrey will be drafted 73rd overall in the MLB first-year player draft on June 4. He was also the only player from North Carolina selected as a pre-season Rawlings High School All-American.
While he is receiving lots of attention nationally, Buttrey is currently focused on leading the Panthers to the Class 4A state championship. Last year, they finished 25-3 but lost in the second round of the playoffs to Northwest Guilford.
“As much as that time was terrible, as mad, upset and sad that I was after losing, I knew I had my senior season and I learned so much from last year,” Buttrey said. “It was very unfortunate we lost, and we should have gone further, but this year is going to be different.”
So far things look good, as the Panthers have raced out to an 11-1 record and are 5-0 and tied with Ardrey Kell for first place in the conference. Before losing to Weddington by one run on March 14, MaxPreps.com had the Panthers ranked 20th in the nation.
Buttrey has loads of talent around him, with Jackson Campana (Clemson), Xander Maddox (Richmond) and Andrew MacLatchie (Furman) already signed to play college baseball. Still, Buttrey stands out.
“He’s a special kid,” Panthers coach Danny Hignight said. “His work ethic and focus are where they need to be, and the one thing that he does great is his competitive nature. That is what separates him from a lot of talented kids. In the high levels of baseball everyone is talented, but Ty loves to compete. That is what makes him great.”
Hignight said that he agrees with the major league scouts who say Buttrey has improved so much over the past couple seasons. Hignight says Buttrey has worked hard to make himself into an elite talent.
Buttrey’s fastball routinely hits 94 miles per hour on the radar gun, and he has the potential to throw harder. His fastball, while dominant on the high school level, has been paired with an improving curveball and a changeup that he throws in the mid- to high 80s.
“My curveball is the most significant pitch that I have improved on,” he said. “I have picked up a little velocity on my fastball, and last year I left my changeup up in the (strike) zone too often. I am working on keeping my change down in the zone and making hitters chase a little more often.
“A lot of my improvement came from little tweaks to my mechanics. I work with Hignight and my dad a lot on changing little things, and it has really paid off for me.”
Buttrey played with the South Charlotte Panthers traveling team that annually has some of the state’s best players, and he’s taken part in the Perfect Game National and East Coast Pro showcases, which have helped him to believe he belongs among the elite.
In Fort Myers, Fla., at the Perfect Game showcase, Buttrey said he had his coming-out moment. Throwing in front of a multitude of big-league scouts, something that is now common when he takes the mound, he had a “pretty good” performance. The spotlight has followed him since.
“It has been a really cool and unbelievable experience for me,” Buttrey said. “I consider myself to be a pretty fortunate kid to even have the option to maybe one day play pro ball.”
Buttrey said he has thought some about what he would do if he were drafted this June, but he still has time to decide if it happens.
“It has always been my dream to play college baseball,” Buttrey said. “My sister (Heather) played soccer at Mississippi State, my other sister (Danielle) went to Auburn, so the SEC has been in my blood.
“It would be hard to turn down a scholarship to Arkansas. They are ranked fourth in the country right now, the coaches are great, the facilities are great, they get 10,000 fans to every home game, and they have one of the nicest stadiums in the country. It will be a tough decision for me if (I get drafted).”
In the meantime, Buttrey is focused on leading the Panthers to a state championship – something they have not done since 1995.
“That is my focus and all I am thinking about right now,” he said. “We are trying to live up to the tradition of Providence baseball, and we are working really hard together as a family. I know we all learned from last year, and we won’t make those same mistakes.”
Hignight knows his team has talent, and with Buttrey leading the Panthers, a fourth consecutive conference title – and more – is attainable.
“Ty is a huge part of our success,” Hignight said. “Without him, we are a totally different team.
“He is the real deal. He is a power arm, he can swing the pole, but the thing that he does is he makes other people better. When he does his running or throws on his own, hopefully the younger guys see that. Hopefully they look at him and say, ‘That is what I want to be.’ That is the biggest thing Ty brings to the younger guys and to our team.”