Like Father, Like Son
AJ Poynter leans on the Butler dugout inside Bulldog park as he hopes to carry on his father's legacy on the Butler baseball team.
With no financial aid or athletic scholarships, life isn’t always easy for a college walk-on like junior AJ Poynter. However, no one was going to stand in the way of his dream to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Butler baseball player.
Growing up in Bargersville, Indiana, Poynter was always surrounded by baseball. Poynter was first introduced to the sport by his father at a very young age.
“I remember the first time picking up one of the little toy bats,” Poynter said. “We’d be in my basement for hours flipping me the little balls to help practice my hitting.”
His father, a former pitcher for the Butler baseball team, taught Poynter everything he needed to know about baseball. While Poynter didn’t have the same arm as his father, he was still a gifted athlete. In high school, he played football and basketball, but baseball was still always his clear favorite.
“It was also just something about hitting a baseball that was just the best feeling to me,” Poynter said. “That’s the path my dad drew for me, so baseball came more naturally than any other sport.”
When college came rolling around, Poynter had received a few minor offers to play baseball at the Division II and III level, but his main goal was to make it to Division I. After failing to get recognized by any major schools, he was left with a tough decision.
“My chances of playing high-level baseball were fading away,” Poynter said. “I felt like I had no other choice but to come to Butler and try to join the team as my dad did.”
In 2019, Poynter committed to Butler, but not for baseball. Although as soon as he stepped foot onto Butler’s campus he immediately began looking for ways to join the team.
During his freshman year, Poynter first attended the walk-on tryout where he began to turn a few heads. The Butler coaches liked what they saw in him and offered him the chance to practice with them in the fall. Poynter was thrilled to play alongside the team but knew that there was still a lot more work to be done.
“I had no respect from anybody on the team when I came in my freshman year,” Poynter said. “Everybody had the Butler hats and all the gear while I was literally practicing in my high school uniforms, so I felt totally out of place”
Still, Poynter was not going to give up that easy as he continued to try and prove himself to the rest of the team. Poynter would show up to every practice until two weeks into the fall when he was diagnosed with mono.
He was out for three weeks, and by the time he had returned, the coaches had suddenly changed their minds. After practice, Poynter was called over to the coaches where he learned that he had been cut from the team.
“All the days of waking up early and putting my heart into each and every practice went right down the drain,” Poynter said. “It was very frustrating, I used it as motivation to come back even better next year.”
Over the summer, Poynter joined a college summer league in Grand Park where many of the Butler players were competing. Throughout the season, Poynter played well enough to earn a spot on the league’s All-Star team.
When the Butler coaches found out, they offered him another opportunity to make the team. Since Poynter counted his freshman season as a redshirt year, this season would be his last chance to make the 40-team roster.
He had a lot of pressure, so he turned to his father for support. Poynter believes his father motivated him to never give up.
“He always would tell me that you can control two things and that's your attitude and your effort.”
“Knowing that if I am putting in my best effort and having a good attitude, he would be proud of me took a lot of the pressure away.”
Poynter made it through the fall and winter workouts until it finally reached the time to make cuts. After much consideration, the coaches respected his persistence and awarded him a spot on the team. This moment meant a lot to Poynter and his father.
“It was a really emotional moment for me,” Poynter said. “To put on the jersey bearing the same team as my dad, especially after all the adversities I had to overcome was very satisfying.”
Poynter will continue to make his dad proud as the starting second baseman for the Bulldogs during the upcoming season.