Butler perseveres to earn scholarship

Former Balers standout Davonte Butler has earned a scholarship to play baseball at Cal State Bakersfield.

Perhaps it’s only appropriate former Haybalers standout Davonte Butler has earned a scholarship to play baseball at Cal State University Bakersfield—their nickname is the Roadrunners. And as Baler fans have witnessed the last couple of years, Butler is swift on the basepaths.

On Aug. 7, Butler verbally committed to play for Cal State Bakersfield, a Division I program that competes in the Western Athletic Conference. It’s been a wild turn of events for Butler, who as of three weeks ago was set to play for Cabrillo College. Earlier in the summer, Cal State Bakersfield offered Butler a walk-on position.

However, Butler was going to stay home unless a program put him on scholarship. And that’s exactly what the Roadrunners did after coach Jeremy Beard watched Butler, first in Bakersfield on June 24 and 25 and then at the Phil Singer showcase tournament in San Diego from July 28 to Aug. 4.

“It’s been a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs,” said Butler, who earned Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division First Team honors playing outfield and pitching. “I wasn’t’ expecting this to come so soon. I knew he (Beard) was going to offer, but I didn’t know how much they would offer. It was a pretty good scholarship.”

For a pretty good player. Those around the area were surprised it took a program this long to offer Butler a scholarship. However, because Butler had played in only two showcases prior to this year’s summer season with the Watsonville Aggies, he hadn’t received much attention.

All it took was one showcase in Bakersfield for Butler to make an impression on the Roadrunners’ coaching staff. After Butler’s second showcase this summer in San Diego, multiple coaches started talking with Butler, who impressed coaches with his speed—both on the basepaths and with his arm.

In one game, Butler beat out a dribbler to the shortstop, and in another hit 89 mph on the radar gun for the first time ever. Butler impressed even himself by hitting 89 on the gun.

“I think the fastest I’ve ever thrown before that was 87 mph,” he said. “I was pretty impressed.”

For Butler, the scholarship offer couldn’t have worked out any better. For one, he loves playing in hot weather. And being that Bakersfield annually has the hottest microclimates in the state, Butler will feel right at home.

“I’d rather be sweating than freezing,” he said. “I play better in the heat compared to cold weather.”

Even more important, Butler will be a 2 hour, 20 minute drive away from his girlfriend, Marisa Villegas, who is entering her freshman year at UCLA. Butler said he’s leaving for Bakersfield on Aug. 19, and Villegas departs for UCLA a day later.

“Everything is moving so fast,” he said.

In talks with Beard, Butler got the sense that he would probably see more time in the outfield than on the mound initially. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Butler develop into a standout pitcher at the Division I level. That’s Butler’s preference—to be on the mound, where he would be involved in the action on every pitch.

“When you’re pitching, all eyes are on you,” he said. “When you’re in the outfield, sometimes you might get four plays per game. But starting off, I’ll be happy wherever they put me.”

Balers coach Billy Aviles said Butler was nothing short of outstanding as a player and person, and that he’ll excel at the next level.

“His baseball is ahead of him,” Aviles said. “Davonte has everything it takes to be a strong Division I player. Once he gets in the weight room, he’ll be a beast for sure.”

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