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Apr. 25, 2012

Vol. 112, No. 11

Sports

Extra Point

On the diamond, hitting it right on the Button

By Merrell Noden ’78
Published in the April 25, 2012, issue


Candy Button ’13 is a quiet spark plug on the softball team and a high achiever in the classroom.
PHOTO: BEVERLY SCHAEFER
Candy Button ’13 is a quiet spark plug on the softball team and a high achiever in the classroom.

Candy Button ’13 is the starting right fielder for the softball team, a walk-on player near the top of her class academically who as a preschooler would sit on her dad’s lap and work on computer programs with him.

“Pretty much any problem that lent itself to structured thinking, she was just a monster at it,” says her father, Tom ­Button ’87, who spent two decades as a program manager at Microsoft. In elementary school, she was writing ­computer programs in several formats, her father said. Button epitomizes the Prince­ton ­student-athlete. A three-year starter on the softball team, she is serious about excelling on the field and in the classroom. 

On the softball field, the 5-foot-2 Button — whose real name is Candace, though she has been called Candy for as long as she can remember — is a quiet spark plug for the Tigers, as well as a quick study. Head coach Trina ­Salcido moved her to second base from outfield in her freshman year. “It was a testament to her coachability,” says ­Salcido. This spring, back in right field, Button has a perfect fielding record. After bouncing back from a mid-March slump, she has a batting average of .240 on a team that was 6–19 as of April 5.

The oldest of six children, Button loved playing soccer and excelled at softball. At the 2005 Junior Softball World Series, she drove in the winning run to beat Russia and secure an eighth-place finish for her team.

Academically, Button is a standout. Last year, the computer science major was one of 82 Princeton students to receive the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence. She also is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. “Candy is creative, and clearly has a strong aptitude for computer science,” says lecturer Robert Dondero, who has taught her in several courses. 

During the last four summers, Button has had internships at Microsoft, where she helped develop a technology that will start music in your car as you approach it, and at Facebook, where she worked out bugs in a pop-up photo viewer. “More than anything, I learned about how running a Web service works at this scale, how a few thousand engineers can collaborate on a single pro­duct,” she says. One hairy moment last summer came when a bug appeared in her own fix just as it was being pushed out onto the Web, and she had to scramble to submit another fix. 

“For an hour or so, it felt like the whole company was depending on me!” Button says. She’ll be back at Facebook this summer, and hopes to end up working at a technology company. 

Though playing softball at Princeton means she must budget her time ­rigorously to keep up with her academics — and pull the occasional all-nighter — she loves being part of the team. Her biggest aspiration is to throw someone out at the plate.

“It’s a sport that ends with college,” she says. “That’s why I really want to play well while I’m here.”

Merrell Noden ’78
PHOTO: FRANK WOJCIECHOWSKI
Merrell Noden ’78

Merrell Noden ’78 is a former staff writer at Sports Illustrated and a frequent PAW ­contributor.

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