For Butler, father J.D., baseball a family affair

'It was our way to spend time together,' J.D. says

For Butler, father J.D., baseball a family affair

OAKLAND -- J.D. Butler was perhaps surprised but hardly shaken when his only son came home from school one day and said he no longer wanted to play baseball.

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J.D. encouraged a 12-year-old Billy Butler to at least finish out the season for his teammates.

"Then," he told him, "you can do whatever you want to do. We'll basket weave or something."

"I just was one of those guys who believed idle minds bring about bad things," J.D. said. "He wasn't just going to come home and hang out, he was going to do something. The next day we got to the park, and he goes, 'Never mind dad, I love this game. Let's just keep playing.'"

Billy is now in the middle of his ninth big league season and first with the A's following eight years in Kansas City.

Butler's run-scoring double

Baseball isn't in his genes. J.D. never played, and his family isn't even very athletic. But they just couldn't ignore that large yellow banner.

"We were driving by the local athletic association in Orange Park, Florida, and there was this sign for T-ball signups," said Billy. "I was maybe 6 or 7, and my dad looked at me and said, 'Hey, do you wanna give this a try?'"

"I never had big league dreams for him," said J.D. "I just wanted to be with my son."

Baseball quickly became a family affair for the Butlers.

None too happy that her husband and son were arriving home from the baseball field past dinner time, Beth Butler simply joined them the next night, working at the concession stand. This continued for years.

"It was our way to spend time together," J.D. said. "We did it every day.

"Billy always looked like he knew what he was doing from the moment he picked up a bat. He just had that ability right away, and so I made sure to surround him with the best of the best, all the top coaches in the area."

J.D., too, was a quick learner. He was the one throwing to Billy 365 days a year, when not working his day job as a Boeing engineer.

"At least 200 throws a day," said Billy. "On a bad day, it was even more, because we were going to fix things with hard work. That's just the way he's always been. Even on holidays, we could be in there for long hours.

"He was always telling me to never quit, and that's what has kept me going each day."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.