NEW HOPE — New Hope baseball coach Lee Boyd never has to be concerned about senior Zac Butler.
Whether the senior is catching, pitching, holding down a corner infield spot or manning shortstop, Butler will be filling just the role his coach wants.
“Zac’s one of those guys who always does the right thing,” Boyd said. “You don’t necessarily have to worry about what he’s doing or what’s going on. If Zac’s in there, then he’s doing the right thing.”
Butler has done that for years with the Trojans. Now, he’ll take his solid character, leadership skills and baseball acumen to the next level.
On Tuesday morning, Butler signed to continue his baseball career at East Mississippi Community College, a continuation of a long-held desire.
“One thing I’ve always dreamed of is playing college baseball, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to play at East Mississippi,” Butler said.
The senior formed a connection with Lions coaches Brett Kimbrel and Chase Reeves that will follow him to Scooba. Boyd said the senior received an offer from EMCC in the fall and recently chose to attend the school.
“He was having a really good year last year, so I felt like this was coming for him,” Boyd said.
Both Boyd and Butler mentioned the two attributes that helped the senior get to this point.
“Hard work and effort,” Butler said. “Those are the two things that got me here, and that’s what coach Boyd preaches all the time: hard work and effort.”
Butler has used both to great effect as one of just four seniors on an “inexperienced” New Hope roster. Many Trojans came into the season with little or no varsity experience after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 campaign.
That made it hard on occasion to bear the pressures of leadership, Butler said.
“That was one big thing because everybody’s looking up to you, especially going to college to play ball,” he said. “They’re expecting big things out of you while also dealing with that pressure and playing ball at the same time.”
So far, Butler and the Trojans have been able to manage that pressure. The senior has been a steady presence as the team’s everyday shortstop as New Hope closed out the regular season with a win Monday over Tupelo and prepares to open the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs Thursday against Canton.
Butler said he’s likely to play first base, third base or catcher with the Lions next season. He played all three as well as pitching last year at New Hope, and Boyd said that versatility is a big part of his game. Additionally, Butler is strong overall both at the plate and in the field.
“He swings the bat well,” Boyd said. “I think he’s a good defender. He does a great job behind the plate.”
Butler is ready to put those skills to use as the postseason begins. He said he’s formed a close bond with the teammates with whom he’ll soon have to part ways.
“All the guys on that team are my best friends,” Butler said. “We love each other just like brothers.”