Opinion

Good luck charm? Billy Butler lunches at Oklahoma Joe’s for second straight afternoon

Billy Butler and a friend ordered a slab of ribs, a side of beans and a Mountain Dew at Oklahoma Joe’s on Wednesday.
Billy Butler and a friend ordered a slab of ribs, a side of beans and a Mountain Dew at Oklahoma Joe’s on Wednesday. Tony Davis (@TDAVIS13), via Twitter

He strolled up to the counter at just past noon, waiting for an order of ribs as the rest of the city waited for game seven. It was Wednesday afternoon, and Billy Butler had pulled up to the Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que restaurant at 11723 Roe Avenue in Leawood.

In a little less than seven hours, Butler would step onto the field at Kauffman Stadium in the deciding game of the World Series. The Royals would face the San Francisco Giants, one game for the championship, and Butler, the longest tenured Royal — a 28-year-old who has spent 10 years in the organization — would dig into the batter’s box for the most important at-bats of his career.

One day earlier, Butler had come to this same Oklahoma Joe’s in afternoon before game six. Hours later, the Royals smashed the Giants 10-0 and forced the first game seven in Kansas City since 1985.

So on Wednesday afternoon, there was really no question. Butler was back at Joe’s, waiting for his order.

A slab of ribs. A side of beans. And a Mountain Dew.

As Butler sat down to eat with a friend, the restaurant, packed with people wearing Royals gear, turned into a impromptu afternoon pep rally. People clapped. Some yells (“Billy!”) echoed around the dining room. Butler posed for some quick photos.

Then, in a scene that could not have been more Kansas City, the barbecue restaurant mostly went back to normal. Country Breakfast took a seat and enjoyed his country lunch in peace, plowing into the ribs.

“People just let him eat,” said Scott Richter, an Overland Park native who had flown into Kansas City from Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning, hoping to enjoy game seven with his family.

Here was Billy Butler, the Royals’ first-round pick in the summer of 2004, the same year the franchise lost 100 games for the first time. Here was Butler, who was so eager to sign and play baseball that he took a preliminary offer just days after being drafted. Here was Butler, doughy hitter extraordinaire — he of the 51-double season in 2009 and the All-Star appearance in 2012 — ready to play in game seven of the World Series in Kansas City.

“We’re proud to be a part of it, and we’re proud to show everyone how far this organization has come,” Butler said on Tuesday night, after going one for four with an RBI double in his return to the lineup after three games in San Francisco.

“And I think we’ve accomplished that.”

In the offseason, the Royals will face a hard decision. Butler is owed a $12.5 million team option in 2015. There is no guarantee he will be back in Kansas City next season. Wednesday night could offer his last moment in a Royals uniform.

At the very least, this is game seven.

“I’m glad I get to experience it with guys like Alex (Gordon) and (Luke Hochevar),” Butler said. “We’ve been together the longest. We’ve stuck it out and we get an opportunity to be world champions.”

But first, there was a final lunch, a final ritual before game seven.

A slab of ribs. A side of beans. And a Mountain Dew.

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.

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