As the Major League Baseball season closes in on the World Series, Southeastern fans have the chance to look back over what was a very successful season for several SE alums in the professional baseball ranks.
Five former Savage or Savage Storm players plied their trade in the minor leagues last season, with three serving in the coaching ranks and two recent student-athletes continuing to chase their dreams of playing in the Major Leagues.
Brett Butler had arguably the best summer, guiding his Reno Aces squad to the Triple-A Championship with a 10-3 win over Pawtucket of the International League at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The Southeastern All-American and All-Star for the Dodgers guided his club to a team-record 81 wins this season before earning its first Pacific Coast League championship with an 8-2 win over the Omaha Storm Chasers.
They carried that momentum onward to the Triple-A championship over Pawtucket.
The Aces scored the game’s first eight runs and cruised to the win. Reno put up three runs in the first inning, another three in the second and two more in the third inning to mount an insurmountable lead and win the game going away, 10-3.
“This is the first (ultimate) championship I’ve ever won,” said Butler, who early in his career was a member of the 1980 Durham Bulls in the Carolina League. “I won a National League championship (in 1989), but never the whole enchilada.
“We had the top three guys in the league in hitting called up and a couple of our top pitchers, and the (D-backs) organization filled those spots and these guys stepped up. Our whole motto was ‘Who’s going to be the hero tonight?”
For the third-straight season Butler squared off against another Southeastern alum when the Aces faced the Tacoma Rainiers who are under the guidance of Daren Brown.
Brown wrapped his Savage playing career in 1989 and after a jaunt through the minor leagues found his calling in the coaching box, working his way up the minor league system before taking over the Rainiers in the Seattle Mariners system in 2007.
Despite a rough 2012 season he has compiled over 400 wins guiding the club and this season became the winningest coach in the club’s history.
Former Butler teammate Greg Legg has also found success on the coaching side in the minor leagues, working his way through the minor league system following a playing career that saw him reach the majors in 1986 and 1987.
Legg has spent the last five seasons with the Lakewood Blueclaws in the Class-A South Atlantic League. The Blueclaws are a Philadelphia Phillies farm team.
He helped guide the Blueclaws to a 36-33 second half in the South Atlantic league and in his time has helped Lakewood to a pair of South Atlantic League championships.
It’s not only coaches having success in the pros though.
Recent Southeastern All-Americans Heath Wyatt and Justin Miller are plying their trade at a high level in the St. Louis Cardinal and San Diego Padre farm systems, respectively.
Wyatt spent the entire season with the Quad City River Bandits of the Class-A Midwest League.
While there he turned in a 4-7 record with a team-best 20 saves, earning a spot in the Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star Game.
He boasted a 2.24 ERA on the year in 64.1 innings pitched over 54 appearances. He held opposing hitters to a .228 average and struck out 57 hitters.
Miller come on strong in his second season in the minors, starting the year with the Fort Wayne Tin Caps before moving to Class-A Advanced to play for the Lake Elsinore Storm.
After hitting .274 with the Tin Caps, Miller caught fire with the Storm and finished the year hitting .311 with 112 hits that included 15 doubles, four triples and 12 home runs. He drove in 71 runs and scored 64 of his own. He also chipped in 17 stolen bases.
He posted a .385 on-base percentage and a .475 slugging percentage for a .826 OPS.