This time, Dan Butler knew it could be the end.

“I thought I might not get this opportunity again,” said Butler, the former Portland Sea Dogs catcher who got a brief call-up to the Boston Red Sox this summer.

Those two games turned into more than a treasured a memory, shared by family.

It meant a World Series ring.

“Isn’t that something?” Butler said late last week by phone from his home in Gilbert, Arizona.

Butler, 32, is one of several players who earned a ring for appearing briefly with the Red Sox this season. It does not matter how many games you played, as former Sea Dogs pitcher Abe Alvarez knows after making one start for the 2004 Red Sox.

Butler did not have the fewest appearances with Boston this year. Tony Renda, who began the season in Portland, was called up and entered one game for Boston – scoring the winning run as a pinch-runner in Boston’s 5-4, 10-inning win over the Yankees on Aug. 5.

“How cool is that?” said Butler, who knows Renda from their time together in Pawtucket and Boston. “Such a good person, and he’s getting a ring.”

The same might be said about Butler, who became an unlikely major leaguer – although he has always shunned the underdog label.

Butler was not drafted. Heck, he didn’t even start for his University of Arizona team, playing 27 games his senior year in 2009. Butler then got a temporary assignment as a catcher in the Cape Cod League. When it was time for him to leave, another team picked him up. The Red Sox saw him, liked his defense and signed him.

Butler moved his way up – including a stop in Class A Salem (Virginia), where he met his wife, Felice – and reached Portland at the end of the 2011 season. He kept grinding and got a major league call-up in September 2014. Butler planned to stay.

“When you’re younger, you’re thinking, ‘I’m in the big leagues, this is where I’m going to be next year,'” he said.

Boston traded Butler to Washington the following January. He spent 2015 in Triple-A Syracuse, was eventually taken off the Nationals’ 40-man roster, and re-signed with the Red Sox in 2016.

Butler has always been a dependable receiver with some power. He’s a career .253 minor-league hitter with 61 home runs.

He entered his third straight season with Pawtucket in 2018, knowing Boston had three catchers on the major league roster – Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart. It meant more patience.

“I got that taste of it in 2014,” Butler said of the majors. “Then you don’t go there for a few years … You got that void.”

The void was filled again in August. Vazquez fractured his finger, and Swihart hit the disabled list because of a right hamstring strain.

Butler was summoned to the Red Sox and caught two games in Baltimore on Aug. 10-11.

“It meant more to me this time,” Butler said. “I knew I may not be here again. I just enjoyed it more – especially with my wife and parents there to enjoy it.”

Butler was involved in some crazy wins – 19-12 and 6-4 – going 1 for 6 with an RBI. He caught the third Boston start of Nathan Eovaldi, who would star in the playoffs.

“He’s got nasty stuff,” Butler said.

On Aug. 14, Boston activated Swihart, and Butler headed back to Pawtucket.

Boston carried three catchers on the postseason roster. Catcher No. 4 became an animated fan.

“I didn’t miss a playoff a game,” Butler said. “I might as well have had my face painted, the way I was watching it.”

Butler does not know if he will be in Boston next April to collect his ring. He’s a free agent, and not sure he will play again. He would like to coach someday.

For now, he’s savoring a season that offered big-league time and an impressive piece of jewelry.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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