Billy Butler wouldn’t change anything about this season. He’s off to a sizzling start, setting a club record for hitting in the first 10 games of his Oakland A’s career and brought a .359 average into Friday’s homecoming game at Kauffman Stadium.
Well, maybe one thing he’d have changed.
“I wish I could have been here for opening day,” Butler said. “It would have been special to see the AL champs flag raised.”
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And collect his ring.
“It was something we earned as a team,” Butler said. “It would have been great to have been there and for all of us to get the ring at the same time. It’s an emotional thing. It’s something we did as unit, as one.”
A tape of the ceremony, courtesy of the Royals, was the best Butler could do, and he said he’s hit the play button.
But Friday also was special.
Butler received his American League championship ring about 20 minutes before first pitch Friday in a brief ceremony.
Standing in front of the mound were Royals owner David Glass, general manager Dayton Moore, manager Ned Yost and outfielder and longtime teammate Alex Gordon.
A montage of highlights from Butler’s eight seasons as a Royal rolled on the scoreboard’s video screen. Mostly home runs from the team’s primary designated hitter but the loudest cheers were saved for a replay of Butler’s stolen base against the Angels in an American League Division Series.
“They can’t take that bag away from me,” Butler said in a news conference before the ceremony.
Butler was introduced and jogged to the field to a standing ovation. He accepted his championship ring and raised it overhead to more cheers.
Butler walked off the field and Royals fans serenaded him with a chant he heard during his time here, perhaps never louder than during the 2012 All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium, when he was the organization’s lone representative.
“Clap, Clap … clap, clap clap.”
Butler tipped his cap as he descended the steps of the third-base dugout, only to remerge moments later to deliver some applause of his own. Standing by himself on the top step, Butler cheered his former teammates, Gordon, Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer as they were presented with their 2014 Gold Gloves.
In his first plate appearance in Kansas City as an opposing player, Butler led off the top of second against Jeremy Guthrie. Another standing ovation. Butler and catcher Salvador Perez exchanged a greeting, and on the second pitch Butler grounded out to third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Butler became a free agent after last season and signed a three-year deal with the A’s, leaving the Royals as one of their most productive players of the past 15 years.
Butler ranks eighth all-time in games played, seventh in hits, sixth in doubles and seventh in home runs. Everybody ahead of him on those lists is a member of the Royals’ Hall of Fame.
Butler was one of three Royals, along with Gordon and pitcher Luke Hochevar, who were around for the bad times. They all made their major league debuts in 2007. The losing culture was fully established, but improvement came slowly.
“We stuck it out for a long time,” Butler said. “A lot of growing pains, a lot of tough years. We just kept battling. Then we had some really good players come up and we formed a good team.”
That won a ring.