Rutgers Athletics announced the hiring of Kristen Butler as the next head coach of the Scarlet Knights' softball program on June 8, 2018. A former SEC Player of the Year and record-setting professional softball player in the United States and Japan, Butler has spent the last four seasons turning around the program as head coach at Toledo while earning the 2018 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year honor.
Under Butler's guidance, the Rockets enjoyed their best four-year stretch since the late 1990s with 104 overall victories. Toledo reached the 30-win plateau in 2018 for the first time since 1995 and earned a share of the MAC West regular season title with a 16-7 league record, marking its first such championship since 1992. Butler was subsequently named the MAC Coach of the Year.
Previously, Butler served as an assistant coach at Charleston Southern (2013-14), at Mississippi Valley State (2011-12), and her alma mater, Florida (2007-08). The Orlando, Florida native was a four-year starter for the Gators from 2003-06, primarily playing catcher. Butler was named the 2006 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year after setting a new program single-season home run record.
Butler joined the professional ranks following graduation as a member of the Akron Racers of the National Professional Fastpitch league, where she was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. She continued her pro career in Japan with Denso Softball and collected another record as the first player to hit three home runs in a game. Butler then joined the Chicago Bandits of the NPF until she retired in 2015 as the league's all-time record holder in both home runs and RBIs.
That led to her first head coaching gig at Toledo, a team that averaged 15.5 wins per year from 2005-2014. During Butler's tenure at the Northern Ohio school, the program's win average rocketed to 26 per year from 2015-18. She also produced and mentored a MAC Freshman of the Year, six All-MAC First Team selections, an NFCA All-Region pick and two MAC All-Freshman honorees.
There is a litany of "first since" statements on Butler's resume at Toledo. In 2018, the team played postseason softball for the first time since 1992 with an appearance in the National Invitational Softball Championship, resulting in the Rockets' first postseason win since 1989. The 2016 Rockets finished the regular season on a 13-game winning streak, the longest unbeaten stretch since 1992. Toledo also finished 2016 with its first winning MAC record (12-11) since 1997 and highest conference winning percentage (.522) since 1996.
Following the 2017 season, Toledo had its first player signed to the National Pro Fastpitch League as Chandler Rice joined Butler's former club, the Akron Racers.
The success on the diamond was paralleled in the classroom with 27 selections to the Academic All-MAC Team during Butler's four years at UT. Academic achievement has been a staple of Butler's career going back to her playing days, when she was a four-time NFCA Scholar-Athlete and a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection.
Championships and honors rolled in at each one of Butler's coaching stops since her graduation from Florida. The 2014 Charleston Southern team won the Big South championship and booked a trip to the NCAA Regionals, while the 2012 Mississippi Valley State program boasted the Southwestern Athletic Conference Coaching Staff of the Year while going undefeated in regular season conference play and through the conference tournament for Butler's first trip to NCAA Regionals.
Kristen and her husband, Marcus, are the parents of a son, Austin, and a daughter, Kalli. Marcus has extensive softball coaching experience of his own and will join his wife on the Scarlet Knights' staff as volunteer assistant coach. Butler graduated cum laude from Florida with a degree in sport management before earning a Master's from Toledo in recreation and leisure administration in 2017.