HPCA’s Butler signs with UNC

Nov. 16, 2013 @ 12:48 AM

Hansen Butler has had a dream for years, and it will soon become a reality.

On Wednesday, Butler, a senior pitcher at High Point Christian Academy, signed his National Letter of Intent to play baseball for the University of North Carolina — one of the top NCAA Division I programs in the country, particularly in recent years.

“It’s awesome, it’s amazing, it’s a dream come true,” he said. “I remember when I was 8, 9, 10 years old, just starting out playing, I had a dream of putting that Tar Heel jersey on and having the chance to play for them. It’s always been a dream, and just with hard work I’ve finally gotten that opportunity.”

Butler, the son of Teresa and Scott, grew up in a family of UNC fans. But he and his brothers were really the first to play baseball. Although he played other sports like basketball, golf and football growing up, he’s kept wanting to play baseball since he started at 6 years old.

“It was something we picked up, and I fell in love with it and decided I wanted to keep going with it with the fun I was having,” he said. “I just have a special passion for baseball. It was the sport that ended up sticking with me out of all the sports. It was just the one I wanted to play all the time — it’s the sport I love the most.”

Through middle school, when he started working with former Tar Heel and major leaguer Scott Bankhead at the North Carolina Baseball Academy, he strengthened and honed his talents and dedicated himself to becoming one of the area’s top pitchers.

After playing at HPCA his freshman year, he played two years at High Point Central, where he set school records for strikeouts in a season (92) and in a game (17) and helped the Bison to their best two-year record.

Butler, who also considered schools including Clemson, N.C. State and Louisville, was selected all-conference as a sophomore and had a strong start to his junior year before suffering an oblique injury. He decided to return to HPCA for his senior year.

“Hansen’s a tremendous player, a very hard worker,” Cougars coach Corey Gesell said. “He has continued to improve all the way through high school. He’s just a dedicated player, and all his hard work has paid off. To play for a top-5 team in the country, that’s pretty special.”

Butler caught the attention of the UNC coaches as a freshman while pitching in the playoffs against Forsyth Country Day, which had a couple UNC commits. In the fall, he went to a UNC camp and pitched well. Then, the following summer, he again pitched well in front of the UNC coaches and soon thereafter accepted their offer.

Although he says it was a difficult decision to make, given the caliber of the schools and baseball programs that were also recruiting him, Butler knew that the opportunity to play for UNC was everything he and his family had been working toward and sacrificing for all these years.

“I’ve grown up in a Tar Heel family,” he said. “I’ve always been a strong Tar Heel fan. But not only that, when the coaches were recruiting me, I developed a good relationship with them. So, they were a big part as well. I fell in love with the campus and the stadium, and it’s just a beautiful place.”

mlindsay@hpe.com

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@HPEmichael