Update: Ty Buttrey will be allowed to participate in his graduation from Providence High School.
With the well-publicized recent exploits of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout — both of whom aren't yet old enough to drink legally — it's easy to forget that the vast majority of young men their age, and even baseball players their age, are nowhere near that level of athletic and financial success in their lives.
For most high school baseball players — which, when drafted, Trout actually was and Harper technically was — getting drafted is a momentous event that is not so much predetermined as incredibly fortuitous.
So it should come as no surprise at all that Charlotte right-hander Ty Buttrey made the decision to skip out on his class's graduation rehearsal in order to wait at home for a possible phone call from a major league team.
It's a decision that may cost him his presence at graduation.
Buttrey, ranked as the 38th-best prospect by Baseball America, is an imposing presence on the mound at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds. Armed with a heater that topped out in the mid-90s and a befuddling knuckle curve, he blew through opposing teams this year, posting a 9-2 record with a sparkling 0.91 ERA.
The Red Sox picked the youngster 151st overall in the fourth round on Tuesday, and that's where the problems arose. Providence Senior High School has two strict policies regarding graduation rehearsals.
The first is that no phones are allowed at the rehearsal, and the second is that any student who misses the rehearsal is not allowed to walk at graduation. Possible exceptions to the latter are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, draftees are required to be able to speak to teams over the phone in order to get information and negotiate. With the second day of drafting taking place right in the middle of graduation rehearsal, and the school not budging on letting him bring a phone despite his attempts at persuading them otherwise, Buttrey had a choice to make.
He made the right one.
Granted, Buttrey is currently committed to the University of Arkansas and so would be playing baseball next year either way. But there is no guarantee he'd be drafted again if he decided to leave the phone at home and rehearse walking across a stage. Who knows what could happen? He could get injured. He could suddenly not pitch well anymore. He could spontaneously lose all interest in the game of baseball.
The point is, this could very well have been a once-in-a-lifetime shot at playing professional baseball for Ty Buttrey, a dream he likely has held his entire life. Skipping out on a graduation rehearsal to negotiate a contract that could potentially be worth millions seems like a fair trade-off.
And yet, by the same token, PSHS is equally within its rights to deny Buttrey an exception. There are two facets to this — the refusal to budge on the phone, and the current denial of the right to walk.
Clearly, Buttrey's is an extreme case. There is a huge difference between granting permission to have a phone in order to take a call informing you you've been drafted by the Boston Red Sox, and granting permission to have a phone because you have separation anxiety from your parents otherwise.
But at the same time, exceptions — while they do not leap from the extreme to the mundane overnight — still gradually tilt in that direction. It's a gradual process, and once you loose the floodgates a little, there is no stopping the inevitable flow of people will who come rushing in to ask for one. It will come in ebbs and flows, but it will keep coming until it's eroded the very notion of an exception altogether.
The same principle applies to the standing decision — PSHS has said it has not made a final decision yet — to bar Buttrey from walking. Once he gets an exception, what is to stop other people from poking and prodding until they too find a way to have a situation extreme enough to be granted one? The answer, unfortunately, is nothing.
In a vacuum, this would be an open-and-shut case. Buttrey would have been allowed to bring his phone to the rehearsal, or failing that, would be allowed to walk. The manner in which he violated the rules is likely not the spirit of the law, as it were, that administrators had in mind when drafting their policies.
But we don't live in a vacuum. We live in an interconnected world, where each of our actions — for better or worse — affects what is around us. Ty Buttrey had every right to take that call and follow his dream. But Providence Senior High School had every right to hold him to the same rules as everybody else regardless.
Photo via Facebook/Providence Senior High School