DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It was with mixed emotions that Brian Butterfield made his return to the Blue Jays' Spring Training facility on Monday morning.
Butterfield was his usual jovial self but -- at least from a Toronto perspective -- he looked somewhat out of place in a Red Sox uniform. That reaction is somewhat natural considering he spent the past 11 years in Canada and became synonymous with Blue Jays baseball.
The 54-year-old made his rounds prior to the start of batting practice, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with many of the Blue Jays players and staff he worked closely with for such a long period of time.
"I've met so many great people in Toronto, and it isn't just coaches, upper management and players -- it's media, it's fans, it's people who own restaurants," Butterfield said. "It's just an unbelievable place. I have a fond place in my heart for Toronto.
"It feels a little bit different coming back. There have been times during the offseason when it has been a little bit emotional."
Butterfield's departure from the Blue Jays this offseason came as somewhat of a surprise, but the Maine native can hardly be blamed for switching sides. When former manager John Farrell was granted permission to interview with the Red Sox and jumped ship to Boston, Butterfield essentially was left unemployed.
Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos personally called Butterfield -- along with the rest of last year's coaching staff -- and said a Major League job could not be guaranteed until a new manager was in place.
That put Butterfield in somewhat of an awkward position. He didn't want to leave the Blue Jays, but with a firm offer from Farrell to join the Red Sox as a third-base coach, Butterfield also wasn't in a position to turn that down and risk not being employed in 2013.
"That was a tough decision," Butterfield said. "Major League jobs are scarce, so I didn't feel like I was in a position to sit and wait. I had an opportunity, I interviewed for the managerial job in Toronto and I think they got the best man.
"I think John Gibbons is an outstanding manager, he's an outstanding man. So that was a great decision, and in the meantime I had to make a choice. Do I wait around and not knowing who the manager was or do I go? The Boston Red Sox seemed like a good fit and an easy decision at the time, but I love Toronto."
Butterfield, who is widely regarded as one of the best infield instructors in the game, now finds himself focused solely on the Red Sox. The job is a homecoming of sorts, considering he grew up not too from the city and always dreamed of one day playing for the organization.
Farrell's departure was met with a lot of criticism from the fanbase, and he's expected to receive a hostile reaction when Boston visits Toronto from April 5-7.
The same likely won't be said for Butterfield, who could be met with a hero's welcome upon his return. A loud ovation would be rather fitting considering how strong of a bond he built with the organization and the city.
"I think everybody might have a different opinion on everything that happened, not only with John, but myself," Butterfield said. "I can say this, the last 11 years of my life have been unbelievable. The people in Toronto, they remind me of the people back home, they're passionate, they're knowledgeable, they're great people.
"I've met some of the finest people that I've ever met in my life in Toronto, and I'll never forget that period of my life, but it's time to start something a little bit different now that I'm back in New England."