It was always Kyle Butler's goal to coach fall and spring baseball.
Little did he know, his first year doing just that for Wright City would ultimately stagnate in a legal battle at which he stands in the center.
Wright City was forced to forfeit its first-round game of the Class A state baseball tournament on April 30 when it was discovered the team had exceeded the maximum amount of games by two. That sparked a series of events in court that led to the suspension of the tournament three games in and the issue going to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Butler, though, has not denied the error, but is still choosing to fight the ruling from the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association in hope of keeping his team in the tournament.
And the picture of who Kyle Butler is starts to become clear.
“I think what he's doing right now is he's fighting for his kids,” said Clegg McAdams, Butler's high school coach in Hugo and father of two players on another team in limbo, Rattan.
“Of course, it's affecting other schools and everything in the midst of all of this. But I have nothing but the utmost respect for Kyle. He's done a good job. He's a very good baseball coach.”
Butler, 27, played football and baseball growing up in Hugo, eventually landing a baseball scholarship to Murray State College. After two years there, he played two more seasons at East Central University, also serving as a graduate assistant for one year.
It was during those years that Butler discovered his desire to coach and remain around the game.
“Athletics is what kind of motivated me to go to school,” he said. “I really enjoyed it and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it after school. That's why I pursued the career to coach because I obviously didn't make it any further than the college level.”
Butler then coached the Lindsay baseball team and was also an assistant for the football team for three years.
Then the opportunity came to attain his goal when longtime Bill Claborn retired following last spring after 20-plus seasons and more than 1,200 wins at Wright City.
Butler had big shoes to fill and he didn't exactly get off to a hot start, leading the Lumberjax to just seven wins in the fall just months after they sent Claborn out with a spring state tournament appearance.
“I was kind of having my doubts,” Wright City senior Jeff Hawkins said. “but we came out there and were ready to play ball after the spring.”
Yet, the spring is stuck on a sour note.
Wright City was originally granted an injunction by McCurtain County allowing the Lumberjax to play just before the state tournament was set to start. But on May 3, as the first three games of the first round were being played, the injunction was upheld and the OSSAA announced it would suspend the tournament pending an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Wright City has since filed its response to the appeal, but no resolution has been reached, and Rattan, Cashion, Roff and Sterling all sit and wait.
The school's administration has punished Butler, too. He is suspended for the rest of the postseason, should the Lumberjax get to play, and for the first five games in the fall.
“This is a mistake that I made and I take 100 percent of the blame for the situation that we're in,” said Butler, who also added he did complete the 2013 online baseball rules meeting this season.
“I just feel like my kids are worth fighting for and that's all I'm doing.”
Still, the Wright City players and community believe in their coach, verbally and visually offering support.
The players all wrote Butler's initials and jersey number (17) on their hats when they believed they would play in the state tournament without him on the field May 3.
“It was a very special feeling,” Butler said. “It meant a lot to me that they thought of me like that and they wanted me on the field with them.
“That's why I took the job because I knew the type of kids that I would have.”