Before Adam Eaton, Wily Mo Peña or Chris Owings, manager Brett Butler was the face of Reno Aces baseball.
"Skipper" since the clubs inception in 2009, the 56-year-old Butler guided Reno to a 366-352 (.510) record in five season.
However Friday the club announced that he won't return for season six. Butler—or as he prefers, "Bugsy"—accepted a job coaching third base for the Miami Marlins. It's not managing—something he still wants to do—but it is a big league gig. And I'm happy for him.
Before coaching, Butler enjoyed a 17-year major league career playing for the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets. He tallied 2,375 hits, a .290 batting average, and 558 stolen bases.
As manager, it's easy to see his impact. In 2011, he guided Reno to its first Pacific Coast League playoff and was tabbed by Baseball America as the PCL's Best Managerial Prospect. The following season, the Aces won the Triple-A National Championship. Last summer, he skippered the PCL team in the Triple-A All Star Game held at Aces Ballpark.
Off the field, he embraced the community and fans. He spoke to Little Leaguers and school groups, attended church, and created "Brett's Big Leaguers", a program that brought sick and disable children out to the ballpark.
“It’s bittersweet,” Butler told the Reno Gazette-Journal Friday. “I love the city, love the people and I built great relationships while there. It was kind of like, when the season is over, I go home (to Phoenix) and when the season starts, I go to my other home.”
Normally I don't spend a lot of time with the players or coaches but Butler was friendly and familiar. Occasionally during batting practice we would talk about his four kids or my photography; once, he even offered me some dating advice. His best stories though were about meeting his wife Eveline. Whenever he talks about her, he smiles that big, Bugsy smile. It's pretty cute.
Before I started writing this post, I searched my archive. In five seasons, I filed more than 800 photos of Butler. Yesterday, I clicked through them all. Here are 50 of my favorites. Enjoy.
|PCL president Branch Rickey and Aces GM Rick Parr announce Butler's hire.|
|Butler catches Reno Mayor Bob Cashell's ceremonial first pitch on opening night, 2009.|
|Waiting tables inside Bugsy's at an Aces foundation fundraiser.|
|Cooper, one of Brett's Big Leaguers.|
|Jimmy Buffet night?|
|Ghost Riders weekend.|
|With Nevada coach Gary Powers.|
|With Dennis Miller.|
|Last season was Butler's worst. Reno finished 60-84, last in the PCL's Northern Division.|
|Not Old Lucille.|
|Throwing during the Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby.|
|Final game, 2009.|
|With Aces owner Stuart Katzoff.|
|Talking to kids and coaches during youth sports day.|
|Talking to his team during opening day, 2012.|
|In 2010, the ball club named a restaurant after the guy.|
|Removing Jared Cosart during the 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game.|
|Talking to his wife in the stands after a game.|
|Celebrating his birthday with Eveline.|
|With all the five-year Aces employees.|