Todd Butler played at McNeese State (1985-86) and was a team captain for Oklahoma (1987-88). He still holds the OU single-season record for stolen bases, when he swiped 46 of 50 bags in 1988. In that same year, he was named an all-region, All-Big Eight Conference, and third-team All-American player. Later that year, he signed with the Cleveland Indians, playing one season of professional baseball.
"That was a great time, playing for head coach Enos Semore and his assistants Jim Fleming, Stan Meek and Joe Jordan. They all became scouting directors years later, so that was a fantastic staff. I played one year of minor league baseball, and went back to McNeese State to graduate, which is where I'm from."
Butler has made several stops in his coaching career, learning and gaining valuable contacts the whole way. His journey began as a student assistant at McNeese State, spending two of his summers in 'the Last Frontier' of Alaska:
"I graduated and I started coaching. Right out of the gate, Jim Fleming- the hitting coach at Oklahoma- contacted Bo Hall and I started coaching with the Kenai Peninsula Oilers [in the Alaska Baseball League] the summer after I finished school. I met a lot of people that I've relied on with recruiting through my 24 years of coaching. I coached in Kenai in 1991, and for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots in 1992."
"I also started at Blinn Junior College in 1992, with Kyle Van Hook. We went to Grand Junction and finished third [in the NJCAA World Series; Blinn also won the Texas State Junior College Championship that year]. I think I made $6,000 and lived in the dorms with the players and I was happy as a lark. Then I went to McNeese State the next year for a 'double bonus' - I made $12,000. Then I went to Alabama as a restricted-earnings assistant coach and I can definitely say that I paid my dues as a coach."
In the summer of 1993, Butler managed the Liberal Bee Jays of the Jayhawk Summer Collegiate League before accepting a role as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama in 1994.
“I coached [at Alabama] from 1994-2000 with Jim Wells and I learned a lot on how to practice and how to prepare a player and a team. Jim had worked for Skip Bertman at LSU and I learned valuable lessons of preparation and motivation.”
“After six seasons at Alabama, I went back to McNeese State to become a head coach. In 2003 we went to a Regional and played Rice, who went on to win the national championship. We had a chance and the Cowboys fought toothand-nail to fall short in 10 innings.”
After leading McNeese to the 2003 Southland Conference Tournament championship (their first in 10 years) and their fourth NCAA Regional bid in school history, Butler returned to Tuscaloosa as an assistant for two years before moving on to the same role at the University of Arkansas.
For eight years, he served as the Razorbacks’ hitting instructor, outfield coach and recruiting coordinator. “Once again, I had the opportunity to work with one of the finest college coaches in Dave Van Horn.”
Butler’s coaching accolades currently include five College World Series appearances, 17 NCAA regionals, four NCAA super regionals and six conference tournament championships. He’s coached 20 All-Americans and had a total of 134 players selected in the MLB draft. 20 of those players have made it to the Major Leagues, including Craig Gentry, Dallas Keuchel, Drew Smyly, Taylor Tankersley, David Robertson and Wade LeBlanc, just to name a few.
“After 24 years of coaching, Wichita State called and now I’m replacing the second-winningest coach (Gene Stephenson) in the history of college baseball. Backing it up to 1986 when I was transferring from McNeese, Cliff Gustafson from Texas called me first, Enos Semore from Oklahoma called me second, and Gene Stephenson from Wichita State called me third, so I had a tie with Coach Stephenson 28 years ago. I have followed the storied Shocker program for 28 years now.”
Having spent the majority of his coaching career in the Southeastern Conference, Butler is no stranger to quality baseball, and sees many similarities with the current situation at Wichita State.
“Now that I’ve been here for months, I’ve walked into a good opportunity with this team. The job, the facilities, the stadium, and the indoor facility that Coach Stephenson built- it’s just off the charts. I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to become the head coach at such a tradition rich program.”
You Can’t Do it on Your Own
Butler’s message to his players is one that emphasizes teamwork and cooperation, qualities that have helped him with his own career:
“At our first team meeting, I told the guys ‘you can’t do it on your own.’ You’re going to need help from the academic advisor, the strength coach, the coaches, and so on. I haven’t done it on my own as a coach. With recruiting, I’ve had friendships with guys from my start in Alaska that I’ve met and relied on, I’ve had players that have played for me that I’ve relied on, I’ve had so much help through the years through friendships – scouts, advisors, high school and summer coaches.”
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Butler knows that filling the shoes of Gene Stephenson is no easy task, and has taken a ‘one day at a time’ approach to leaving his own mark at Wichita State:
“The thing I’ve learned is patience. At least I think I’ve learned it! I’ve learned to slow it down, to take one day at a time. They say if it’s built fast, it’s not built to last. With our practice schedules, we have the same schedule two days in a row. That’s where we’re at with our program and we’re going to see how it works out and how the season goes.”
“Simplicity is a big word for me individually as a coach. To be able to have self-discipline, self-control; I can be a thermometer and be up and down or I can be a thermostat and have consistency with good leadership skills. I think it’s taken a long time for me to get to that point, but I think it’s the key to being a head coach, to have the control to lead the guys each and every day whether you win or lose or play great or poorly. Just recover and get ready for the next day.”
The Expectations: What will Todd Butler-coached teams do well?
“I’d like to think that we look the part. That we have discipline right when we get off the bus. That we’re serious about baseball at Wichita State and we play the game the right way. That we carry ourselves with class and character; I’m not into the stuff in the dugout where you’re giggling and cackling and doing the different things. I like to play clean baseball and hopefully we’re well prepared from practice and things we do prior to our games. I tell our players practice is for the coaches and the games are for the players. That’s about it."