(Photo via Benjamin Butler’s Instagram account @Benjamin_Butler)
On October 29th, 2017, Benjamin Butler posted a picture of himself on Twitter with the caption, “Me at home waiting…to close the game for the Astros.” Butler is a die-hard Astros fan and Junior-class closer waiting to begin his first year with University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) after pitching in the National Junior College Athletic Association Championship in the 2017 season.
It’s safe to say that after his time as a Vaquero, Butler hopes to reach MLB heights, and he certainly has potential as a closer. Butler’s strength as lies in the fact that he can regularly hit speeds of over 90 mph with his pitches. To back up that velocity, in his Sophomore-season at San Jacinto Junior College, he struck out 16 batters through 12 innings.
Transitioning to Division I baseball from a junior college is another step towards a shot at the big leagues, with UTRGV providing a unique opportunity. According to coach Derek Matlock, the Western Athletic Conference (which UTRGV is part of) is on the rise, with programs such as New Mexico State, Northern Colorado, and Grand Canyon on the rise. Coach Matlock, who was recently hired in July of 2017, has high hopes for his first season with UTRGV, hoping to transform their culture and their record.
“It’s fun coming in and trying to develop a program that’s had 17 losing seasons,” said Coach Matlock. “It’s exciting. The kids are great kids, they love baseball, and they play really hard.” Butler is among those kids and should feel confident that Coach Matlock will enable him to find success considering Coach Matlock coached both Jake Arrieta and Corey Kluber in their time at the collegiate level.
One aspect of his game that Coach Matlock has already helped Butler improve on is his arm slot. Butler pitched from center out of high school, then over the top at San Jacinto, but Coach Matlock and his coaching staff have found that Butler achieves his best velocity from the 3/4ths slot. That’s saying something for a player whose velocity is already consistently quick.
Now that Butler is getting comfortable with his new slot, the next step is throwing more strikes. If Butler can keep his pitches in the box, look for him to be a stand-out closer on the UTRGV team.
“He’s got a power breaking ball. He’s a great student, a great worker, and a great kid in general,” said Coach Matlock. In the 2017 season, Butler will likely continue to impress his coach with his work ethic and work towards being a part of the next Astros team to win the World Series.