For the first time since 1998, a father is in one baseball dugout of a playoff team, while his son is in the other. In this case, Drew Butera is the Kansas City Royals back-up catcher while his father, Sal, is a Toronto Blue Jays coach.
The family matriarch is Gina Butera, who planned for this year’s playoffs.
“I actually had a T-shirt designed and it’s blue,” said Gina Butera. “On one side it is the Jays logo and on the side it’s the Royals logo. The back says, ‘Butera’s house divided.’ Yeah, I had no doubt that both of them were going to be in the playoffs. No doubt.”
The problem is Gina Butera left that T-shirt at her home in Florida. Even if she wore it though, it wouldn’t have been seen because she bundled up for the chilly weather in Kansas City over the weekend.
For Game One of the American League Championship Series, Butera parked in the Royals players parking lot. For Game Two, she traveled to Kauffman Stadium on the bus with the Blue Jays wives. Her way of staying down the middle.
When all the Buteras went to dinner after Game 1, there was no baseball talk. That’s what Drew Butera prefers.
“No inside stuff headed his way. We both understand our positions,” said Drew Butera. “We’re not going to help each other out. But he’s my dad. I still love him.”
Sal Butera said his feelings are mutual. Away from the ballpark, you could say that they’ve called a truce.
“I root for him, obviously, being a bloodline and everything else, but by the end of the day I’m a Toronto Blue Jay and he’s a Kansas City Royal,” said Sal Butera.
Before Game 2, when the two men left for the ballpark, Gina Butera again handled it diplomatically.
“This (Sat.) morning I gave my husband a kiss goodbye and I said, ‘Good luck honey,’” said Gina. “Then I turned to Andrew and I gave him a kiss goodbye and I said, ‘Best of luck, Drew.’”
Because All-Star Salvador Perez commands the playing time at Butera’s position as catcher, he doesn’t see much action. In fact, even when Butera’s on the field for the pre-game’s ceremonial first pitch he’s overshadowed such as Saturday when the cheers were louder for Kansas City golfer Tom Watson.
But when the Royals faced elimination last week in the division series against Houston, Drew Butera played a huge role in the Royals comeback rally.
“Oh my gosh, I was at my house and our daughter was at her condo in Washington, D.C., and we were talking to each other and we both were going crazy,” said Gina, when talked about that at-bat. Butera recalled her reaction after the eighth pitch of the at-bat. “It was beyond, beyond nerves,” said Gina.
“My daughter called me crying after the eighth pitch. She was literally crying, ‘Mom, I can’t take this anymore!’”
After Drew walked, Sal Butera remembered watching. Obviously in the moment against a very tough right-handed pitcher (Luke Gregerson), fouling off all those pitches and really keeping the line going as they say, which is what you preach as a coach and so forth,” said Sal Butera. “I watched that inning and it’s pretty special.”
Butera’s walk loaded the bases and set up Alex Gordon’s tie-breaking RBI in the Royals comeback victory. Last Saturday at Kauffman Stadium, it happened again. The Blue Jays had a 3-0 lead, then it went up in smoke when the Royals scored five runs in the seventh. This time with Drew Butera watching from the bench. Gina Butera sat in the Blue Jays section of the grandstand, and she maintained a vow she made to herself.
"I’m not cheering. I’m not,” said Gina from her seat last Saturday. “I’m respecting sitting with the Toronto Blue Jays. When the Royals do something good, of course, I’m excited because it’s my son’s team. But I’m silently for them (the Blue Jays), too.”
Gina Butera knew that silence would prevail on the Blue Jays flight to Toronto. She’s been through this before. Sal Butera earned a ring for a World Series Championship with the Minnesota Twins in 1987. Deep inside she also knows that someone will be hurt. On the other hand, a Butera is going to the World Series and she’ll be there, too.
“The greatest thrill of your life. One or the other we’ll be doing that. I can’t be more proud for either one of them,” said Gina Butera. “I know when Andrew was 3 and sitting in the back of my van, he told me, ‘One day, mommy, I’m going to play in the World Series.’”
Soon, we’ll know if it’s Drew’s first trip, or another trip for Sal.
Greg Echlin is a sports reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him on Twitter, @GregEchlin.