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Marlins' Butler reflects on meaning of Father's Day

Third-base coach, cancer survivor appreciates, remembers own dad as role model

Marlins' Butler reflects on meaning of Father's Day

MIAMI -- Father's Day stirs up so many emotions for Brett Butler. It's a day to reflect, rejoice and remember.

This year, the day has additional meaning, because Father's Day falls on Butler's 57th birthday.

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"To be able to spend time with my kids, and we have a grandson," the Marlins third-base coach said, "it's special."

The day also is emotional.

"Then you talk about the cancer, and you talk about perspective," Butler said. "You talk about life and relationships. There really is no greater relationship than a child can have with their parents."

A husband, a father of four and a grandfather, Butler takes his responsibility as a parent seriously. Father's Day, to him, is more than wishing someone a wonderful day.

"I think what we have to do is just step back and appreciate our fathers and what they represent," Butler said. "For one, they give us structure. And two, they set an example for us to go forward and to be able to raise our family the proper way.

"Whenever Father's Day comes around, it gives me a reminder that I want to be a good example to my son. I want to be a good example to my girls."

Butler continues to set examples on and off the field. He's had his share of personal battles and triumphs, on and off the field.

A devout Christian, Butler has survived a stroke, throat cancer and prostate cancer.

"If cancer doesn't hit you directly, it hits you indirectly," he said. "It's going to affect somebody in your family. Why? Is it is the food? Is it the environment? Who knows what it is now. When I had my cancer, I was shocked. I lost my dad to a heart attack, I lost my mother to brain cancer. So there is always an awareness about good health, and being able to eat right and exercise, and make sure you're taking care of yourself, because let's face it, we only get one body."

Like Mother's Day, MLB uses Father's Day as a platform to raise cancer awareness. On Mother's Day, the league wears pink as part of its breast cancer initiatives. For Father's Day, the spotlight turns to prostate cancer, and blue is the color theme.

To Butler, it is about doing your part.

"Don't have any regret in your life," he said. "Live your life to the fullest. You make people aware of the things that are dangerous in their life -- the eating, the lack of exercise, whatever it may be. The foods you are ingesting that are going to be harmful. You try to do your best and bring awareness to other people."

To Butler, you make the most of what you receive.

Butler clearly did so. As a 23rd-round pick in 1979, he was a long shot to make it. Yet Butler played 17 seasons in the big leagues.

After overcoming his own health issues, Butler managed Arizona's Triple-A Reno squad for five years prior to being hired this season by Miami to handle coaching third base, along with instructing the outfielders and baserunners.

Butler credits his father, Jerry, who passed away 30 years ago at age 49, for molding him into the man he is today.

"Father's Day is that one day where it kind of comes back to mind," Butler said. "There are a flood of memories of what a father is and what a father is supposed to be. My dad was my example. My dad was my best friend.

"Father's Day, it's the relationship a son can have with his dad. There have been others who have taken my father's place, who I will talk to periodically in regards to that and thank them for the example they've been to me."

Before the 1984 season, Butler was traded from Atlanta to Cleveland, and he called him to give his parents the news.

"I remember calling him, and I said him, 'Hey, dad, I've got some good news and I got some bad news. What do you want to hear?'" Butler said. "He said, 'Give me the good news first.' I said, 'I'm still in the big leagues.' He said, 'What's the bad news?' I said, 'I got traded to Cleveland.' That was back when Cleveland wasn't very good.

"This is what he said to me. 'I never thought that I'd live to see the day that you played in a Cleveland uniform. You know, son, that was my favorite team growing up. I want you to know how proud I am of you and how much I love you. Ah, here's your mom.' It was kind of funny the way it worked that way, because the next day is when he died of a heart attack."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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