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Q&A With Oakland A's DH And Redskins Fan Billy Butler


It's rare for a baseball team to have two diehard Redskins fans, but that's the case for the 2016 Oakland Athletics.

One of them is closer Sean Doolittle (his interview can be found here). The other is designated hitter Billy Butler, the longtime Kansas City Royal, who signed a contract with the A's last offseason.

He grew up in Florida, but his father passed down his Redskins fandom, one that's meant Butler has inherited his dad's VHS tapes with recordings of every Redskins Super Bowl. It's also meant that Butler now has a dog named "Riggo," named after his favorite player, though he explains he never actually saw John Riggins play.

I spoke to Butler about attending the Redskins' playoff game against the Packers, his thoughts on the Trent Williams "You Like That?!" explosion and his experience playing postseason baseball.

The Redskins Blog: Is it nice to have another Redskins fan in the clubhouse?

Billy Butler: Yeah. I knew there are some [fans], but that's the first time I ever played with someone who's been an actual Redskins fan. Actually, another one was Justin Maxwell. He went to Maryland.

*Are you in a fantasy league with Sean Doolittle? *

Yeah, we were in the same one. I was actually the commissioner of our team. I lost in the championship game. I'm actually really good at it. Including back to the Royals days, I've either won it half the time or been runner up half the time. I didn't [have any Redskins] on there. I would have loved to have had Jordan Reed. Kirk [Cousins] was picked up on waivers. I had Cam Newton, so I can't not play Cam Newton. It's all a gamble.

You were born and raised in Florida so how did you become a Redskins fan?

My dad is from North Carolina. When he was growing up – he grew up in the 60s and the 70s – so there wasn't the Panthers, so it was either the Miami Dolphins or George Allen and "The Fun Bunch." He picked them. He watched them growing up so I kind of was bred into that and I've loved them all the way.

So did you have a choice growing up or was it always going to be the Redskins?

No, I didn't have a choice. When I was growing up, it was 1995, when I was like 9-years-old, and I was watching a Jaguars game and I didn't even consider it then. I went to a few Jaguars games here and there but we were always watching Redskins games on DirecTV.

I saw you had a photo with your dad at one of the games as a kid…

Yeah, when I was growing up my dad used to always go to the preseason games or wherever they travelled. When they came down to Florida, Tampa Bay, we went down there. I took a picture with the Chief. I saw him at the [playoff] game [laughing], he's getting old.

What was attending the Redskins playoff game like?

It was good. It was cool. I mean, the outcome wasn't what anyone wanted. But the excitement, we were looking forward to that. There's always been a ton of question marks with the team the last 7-8 years and now they have a lot of key pieces they can build on. That's something we haven't been able to say in other years so that's something we're excited for.

Who did you end up going with?

It was me, my dad, my mom, my wife and my sister. My mom stayed at the hotel. We have a two-month-old, so we couldn't leave her at home with the baby sitter. I've got three girls – the other two stayed with the baby sitter. So somebody had to be the odd man out and my mom agreed to watch the baby.

How's being a father again?

I have zero control over ever anything. My day is basically panned on whether they're having a good day or not. My daily goals are to get the oldest ones – because on goes to day care and the other to first grade – to school on time. That's a daily battle for this family. I have my time scheduled to where I go to our Spring Training facility after I drop them off. It's great though. If there's something stressing or tough, they'll do something funny to make it awesome.

Are you raising your girls as Redskins fans?

They already are. They wear all the Redskins stuff every Sunday. They're excited. My middle one is three-years old. She gets excited every Sunday to wear her stuff. She really doesn't know what the Redskins are yet but she just wants to wear it. They see me every Sunday watching football, so they know to give me my space.

Do you get animated during games?

I used to. I'm definitely a little bit calmer than I used to be. I definitely still get animated over some questionable calls here and there.

What was your impression of the Kirk Cousins "You Like That?!" phenomenon?

I remember it was after the Bucs game and [Kirk] getting a lot of heat from the media prior to that. Me, and any other baseball player, watching that can attest to that, because we get the heat from the media, too. Kirk can't say this, but they were definitely all over his case for not playing at the level that he played the rest of the year that he knows he's capable of. But, they were on him hard. When he proves them wrong, it makes you feel good about that. There's always doubters.

You have a #CountryBreakfast nickname/slogan attached to you. How did that start?

It was 2009 or 2008. Twitter was basically brand new at that point. We were in a rain delay down in [Kansas City] and someone took to Twitter, a fan, coming up with nicknames of players trying to pass time on the delay. And this one was one that trumped them all and was the most popular one on our team. The media came to me and I like interacting with the fans a lot. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but it took off. Kind of like the Kirk Cousins [moment]. Everyone thought it was just a guy fired up after the game and then it took off from there.

Do you have any advice for Kirk and his phrase? Should he keep it going?

I don't think it's a negative. It depends on what he wants. Heck, I didn't think "Country Breakfast" was going to stick. For being as young as he is and the point in his career, there are other things that he's going to be remembered by if he continues to play the way he is. It's motivated his teammates…You know that you're making a difference. When other players take stabs at it, that's when you know you're doing good, like Randall Cobb did after that game. That's definitely not a negative towards Kirk. When other people nationally know what's going on, that means you're doing something right, how something minor turned into something huge.

Between A's fans banging on their drums and a Redskins game, what's the crazier atmosphere?

Coming from Kansas City to Oakland, it gives you more of a glorified high school baseball game with all the drums banging, the right field stands, they come up with slogans, they come up with banners. I used to remember that when the guys in high school would back their trucks up and had signs for all their teammates. Most of the time it doesn't happen as much in baseball because we play every day. Football is once a week. So the excitement of baseball comes and goes.

I imagine it's a little different in the World Series…

Oh yeah, the World Series was loud in itself. For me, the loudest game I've been in was playing in that Wild Card game in 2014. That one you couldn't even hear yourself think. The dugout was rattling, it was so loud. It was crazy. It definitely had a similar feel.

Was it a little bittersweet for you to watch the Royals win the World Series this past year?

I was definitely happy for all the teammates I played with all those years. The Alex Gordons, the Luke Hochevars, all the guys that were drafted by the Royals and put in their time there. It was great to see them get to that point because I know how tough it was losing in Game 7 the year before. It was great to see them thrive and become the players they thought they were…I was in the organization for so long, I get asked by people who don't follow as closely, they just know who I am, that think I was on that team. I have to explain, 'No, this is the first year I wasn't there.' That's the stuff that's tough. The fan base there is very heavy and very loyal.

How excited are you for baseball now that we've reached mid-January?

Every baseball player, we all love football. So when that gets done, the first of the year [is] when our workouts get cranked up. So that's what we're getting excited for. We have Fan Fest in Oakland this weekend. After that, we get down to Arizona for Spring Training. Everything's starting to fire up and get going.

Did you play football as a kid or was it always baseball for you?

I did, but I was always too big to play. As you can imagine, I peaked early. So I played in JV and when I got to that point, I kind of knew my calling. Being in Florida, you can't choose three sports once you get to a certain level, like you can in other states. My direction was chosen because I was so much better at baseball than anything else.

What position did you play in football?

I played offensive and defensive line. I was big enough, but I wasn't fast enough [laughing]. 




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