Ty Buttrey, A Brave Decision

The decision of Halos reliever Buttrey to walk away from baseball tonight reminds me, as a Sheffield Wednesday fan, of a similar decision by an Owls footballer… And if the parallels continue… Buttrey will not be back as a player any time soon.

Angels Over the Pond founder, Editor and features writer, Matt Thomas, writes a View Over the Pond.

Tonight many Angels fans will be reflecting on the events of the past 48 hours or so, the confusion over the reluctance of Ty Buttrey to report for training and will no doubt be wondering if Buttrey will make a comeback. Most Angels fans outside of the United Kingdom would likely struggle to know who Sheffield Wednesday are, unless they are football (soccer) aficionados, but the decision of Halos reliever Buttrey to walk away from baseball tonight reminds me, as a Sheffield Wednesday fan, of a similar decision by an Owls footballer, in recent history. And if the parallels continue then, the chances are, Buttrey will not be back as a player any time soon.

Yesterday it was announced that Buttrey, a 28 year old pitcher born in North Carolina, had refused to report to the Angel’s alternate site, after being optioned by the Halos. The startling news was apparently a shock to Angels manager Joe Maddon, who had said that he had no idea that Buttrey intended to walk away from the game, and had hoped that despite failing to make the 2021 roster, Buttrey would improve on areas of his pitching and return in the near future. Tonight Buttrey made a post to his social media, making it clear that he had taken steps to leave the game, for good, and was brutally honest in his reasons, and I fully understand his reasoning, and support his decision fully.

Buttrey has made it clear that, at present, he has accomplished all he wanted in making it to the major leagues, and it is now time to re-evaluate his priorities…

Originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox as a fourth round draft pick, in 2012, Buttrey was picked up by the Angels via a trade in July 2018. Having spent the previous six years working hard to make the MLB, Buttrey made his major league debut two weeks later for the Halos and had good seasons in 2018 and 2019. However, as the COVID plagued 2020 played out it was clear that Buttrey was not enjoying sustained periods of quality and, ultimately, this dip in form and a lack of consistency led to him being optioned and losing his place for the 2021 season, just having gotten under way. In 2016, Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Jérémy Hélan, stunned the footballing world by similarly dramatically tearing up his contract and walking away from professional sport, despite the French international being tipped to be the next Patrice Evra.

Hélan, also 28, had been brought to mega-rich English club, Manchester City, as a young man with it all to prove, a move which caused some controversy at the time and, like Buttrey, Hélan never really made the first team roster at his first club. In similar fashion to Buttrey being sent out to gain experience in the lower reaches of professional baseball’s farm system, Hélan had a number of lower league loans before securing a permanent loan to Sheffield Wednesday, where he ultimately started to secure regular professional appearances. Also like Buttrey, towards the end of his Sheffield Wednesday career Hélan was somewhat inconsistent and erratic at times, and was finally sent out on loan again for a short while, before he announced his decision to quit.

I hope that Buttrey does find the motivation and love for the game to come back at some point, but also like Hélan I won’t hold my breath and I will fully support his desire to embrace life away from professional sport.

In a refreshingly honest and open post to his personal Instagram account, tonight Buttrey has made it clear that, at present, he has accomplished all he wanted in making it to the major leagues, and it is now time to re-evaluate his priorities and spend time doing things that, ultimately, mean more to him. Buttrey went on to make it clear that he no longer felt love for the game and, in truth, probably never did. He astonishingly claimed that his motivation had always been to prove the people in his life who told him he would not make it to the big leagues wrong. He wouldn’t be the first to feel that pressure, in any walk of life, if we are all really honest, haven’t we all?

Since Hélan walked away from Sheffield Wednesday, the France international team and football entirely he has never made any indication of a desire to return, and instead has remained private about his new life away from the game. Like the case of Hélan it is perhaps now obvious that erratic form was caused by off the field issues that were rooted in a rather conflicted sportsman, looking for a valid reason to keep pushing hard to reach the highest level. I had feared that Buttrey was suffering from demons, of late, and I am relieved that he simply wants to live his life on his own terms. Like Hélan, I hope that Buttrey does find the motivation and love for the game to come back at some point, but also like Hélan I won’t hold my breath and I will fully support his desire to embrace life away from professional sport.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

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