FORT PLAIN — If the spotlight isn’t on you, sometimes you move to the spotlight.
Fort Plain seniors Troy Butler and Sarah Paradiso found a way to put themselves on the radar during the college recruiting process, and it paid off.
The duo celebrated their college commitments in the lobby of Fort Plain Central School Tuesday afternoon, an event originally scheduled for early November, but disrupted by a move to remote learning until after Thanksgiving.
Butler committed to play baseball at Division I Binghamton University, and Paradiso will play volleyball at Division III Keuka College.
“I started with a travel ball team [Capital Region Renegades], and we were all over this side of the country, all summer,” Butler said. “I had to get out, had to get my name out there first before they could start coming to me. I went to as many showcases as I could. After that, the phone started ringing.”
Butler chose Binghamton over UAlbany, Siena, Rutgers, Maine, UMBC and UMass Lowell.
“They showed a lot of interest in my early on and they kept with me for a long time, a lot of months,” Butler said. “They had me there the first day they could, and as soon as I stepped on campus, it was like being at home.
“It’s a great academic school, a great athletic school. It’s just going to be exciting to be there and play with that team.”
It was also Division I, a deal breaker for the right-handed pitcher.
“Early on, I didn’t want anything less than DI,” Butler said. “I wanted to be with the best players I can, maximize my skill and potential.”
Butler said the Bearcats coaching staff saw a lot of upside in the Hilltopper senior.
“They like my frame and how I handle myself on the mound, the potential that I had and room to fill out because of my size and frame,” Butler said.
Known as a hard throwing right-hander, Butler said he continues to work on his repertoire.
“I’m constantly working on things, locating other pitches like the change-up and the curveball,” he said.
During Tuesday’s event, Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips reflected on his hurler.
“He is probably in the top 10 of kids that I’ve coached, and I’ve coached for a long, long time, 45 years,” Phillips said. “His fastball is unbelievable. He has so much ability, and he’s the last of the blue chippers in this program. It’s going to be a long time before we have somebody as good as the kids that just graduated, led by Troy.”
Phillips and Butler both hope to get one more season in the sun. Last year’s season stopped before it began due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve grown up with a Hilltopper uniform on, and I would love to be able to go out on that mound one last time with that uniform, play with that set of guys at least one more game, one more season,” Butler said. “We’ve had great years with these guys and this school. I don’t want it end like it did, last spring, with COVID.”
The two-time Section II champion leaves behind a road map for other Hilltopper baseball players looking for a path to college athletics.
“I just want the kids knowing here, we have a very small school, small community and it’s hard to get out and get to those big schools,” Butler said. “I want kids to know that you can still do it.
“If you really put hard work in and effort into you can get to that Division I school and beyond and succeed at that level too.”
FIRST IMPRESSION SEALS DEAL
Paradiso, the Canajoharie/Fort Plain setter, was lighting up the score sheet with assists, aces, and blocks throughout her career, but she wasn’t capturing the attention of college coaches during her junior season.
“I was actually on the verge of giving up at that point, and then I went to one more college showcase out by the Rochester area,” Paradiso said. “I played in front of [Keuka College] coach Quinn Wright for maybe a half an hour that he could have seen me.
“I checked my email the next couple weeks, and he was asking for a Zoom conference call. We had two calls over the course of him saying that he wanted me to play and what life was like at Keuka.”
It didn’t take long for Paradiso to commit to join the Wolves.
“I did some research on my own, took a virtual tour, it had to be virtual my first time, and then I verbally committed our second or third meet after talking to another player,” said Paradiso, who will major in education at Keuka. “It just felt right.”
Besides Paradiso’s ability to connect with her teammates on the court, she took his advice on their first meeting at that showcase.
“I was standing in place, moving my feet a little bit to the sway of things,” Paradiso said. “He came over and said, ‘Hey, do me a favor and don’t sway your feet.’ I tried not to sway my feet as much and I actually had a couple stuffs [blocks] because of that that and he was very impressed with my coachability and how well I listened.”