Jim Souhan: Butera finds the perfect gift on Dad's big day -- again

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2011 - 12:19 AM

The backup catcher thrilled his pop, a former Twins catcher, by being the unlikely hero in another amazing win.

Drew Butera

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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On Father's Day, most kids buy their dad a tie. Drew Butera broke one.

Sunday began with three Buteras watching baseball from three different vantage points in two different cities, and ended as only Hallmark, Disney or baseball could have scripted it. One Butera phoned the good news to another as their son tried not to choke on a shaving cream pie.

Sal, a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays, was working a game in St. Louis. Gina, Sal's wife and Drew's mom, sat in the Target Field stands. Drew, the Twins catcher, began the game on the bench.

By late afternoon, Drew, the only son of a former Twin ever to make it to the big leagues with the team, would produce his only big-league walk-off hit on Father's Day. "I couldn't be more thrilled," Sal said.

Drew wasn't supposed to play Sunday, much less become complicit in the Twins' daily miracle. He entered in the eighth as a defensive replacement after Rene Rivera was removed for a pinch hitter.

Gina called Sal and began giving him updates. That personal broadcast ended when Drew hit a hard grounder that skipped off the third baseman's glove and scored Delmon Young from second with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

The Twins mobbed Drew, and his roommate, Luke Hughes, smashed shaving cream in his face. Once the Cardinals' game ended, Sal rushed to his computer and watched the replays.

"This is the second Father's Day he's done something special, and given me a great present," Sal said. "Last year, the day before Father's Day, I was in Philadelphia, and I got to see Drew hit that pinch-hit home run in the 10th inning, and the Twins won that game."

Does Drew still need to buy him a socket wrench? "No," Sal said. "I think this will do."

Drew Butera, who at one point ranked behind Joe Mauer, Wilson Ramos and Jose Morales on the organizational depth chart, became a big-league fixture over the last two seasons because of his fielding and attitude -- and despite his hitting.

His big-league batting average is .185. With Mauer back on the active roster and Rivera serving as Francisco Liriano's caddy, Butera knows he can't count on finishing this or any week in the big leagues.

Then again, the Twins' season-long injury problems and recent roster permutations have led to some of the strangest lineups in franchise history. Brian Dinkelman has batted seventh. Tsuyoshi Nishioka has batted third.

Sunday, Rene Tosoni, Matt Tolbert and Butera delivered the Twins' biggest hits as they won for the 14th time in 16 games.

"I'm really happy for Drew," right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "That was great. He pulls so hard for everybody, cheers so hard for everybody, and he plays so hard. He does everything right.

"To see him get that hit makes you feel good. I know it made him feel good."

Baseball's strange new custom calls for teammates to abuse anyone who delivers a game-winning hit. Butera rounded first, and Hughes jumped into his arms while others tried to punch him.

Then Butera stood near the dugout for a postgame interview, and Hughes smashed his face with a shaving cream pie.

"I had it coming," Butera said. "I kept getting everyone else.

"Luke better be ready, though. He's my roommate. I owe him one."

Drew doesn't owe Sal anything more than what he gave him Sunday. "That team has been amazing to follow," Sal said of the Twins. "I have to give so much credit to Ron Gardenhire. You see Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert and Drew getting big hits, you see that team playing this well despite all of their injuries ...

"I couldn't be more impressed."

Sal got the news by phone and then watched the hit on his computer. Late Sunday night, he planned to hear about it from Drew himself, one Twins catcher to another.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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