Billy Butler talks about Cuba with RC

It's been a remarkable season for Billy Butler. So far in 2006, Butler has won the Futures Game MVP award, a batting title, and the gold medal at the Olympic qualifier in Cuba. But one accomplishment remains on his list: a Texas League championship. On Thursday, Butler rejoined the Wranglers looking to put the ultimate cap on his stellar 2006 campaign, and RC spoke with him prior to the game.

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Royals Corner: Billy, could you tell us a little bit about your experience playing with Team USA? What was it like this time around, and what did you get out of the experience?

Billy Butler: We played about 10 games down there in Cuba. Cuba is an experience, and it's something I wouldn't replace. Playing down there under those circumstances made me a better baseball player, and we just had a great team and a great bunch of guys that were all team players. That's why we got it done down there.

Royals Corner: What was your take on Cuba? Not many Americans have had the opportunity to travel there. Did anything stick out for you?

Billy Butler: Well, we didn't have much A/C in the hotel, and we got very little air. When I got back into the States, in the airport I was freezing, and I didn't know why. The hotel was probably 80 degrees every night, and it's just very hot down there. It's a very poor country – guys make $10 a month, and Fidel takes the rest. It's just the way it is down there, and it makes you realize how good you have it here.


Butler went 1-for-3 with a walk in his first game back from Cuba

Royals Corner: Were you guys under pretty tight security? Were you able to get out and go around a little bit, or were you pretty much confined to the ballpark and your hotel?

Billy Butler: No, I got out and went around. The people out there are really nice, but they're just not allowed to talk to you that much because it's a communist country and they've got guards on every corner. They're really nice people, but they get a bad reputation because of what Fidel has made of the country.

Royals Corner: With all the turmoil in Cuba right now because of Castro's illness, were you worried at all before you went, and was your family pretty concerned about the trip?

Billy Butler: Yeah, of course. I didn't know what to expect when I went down there, especially if Fidel died. I didn't know what kind of chaos that would cause down there. You think that it's bad enough as it is, but if he died there might be a riot. It was actually a very nice trip. It was very safe, and there were no dangerous things about it. The area we stayed in was really nice.

Royals Corner: Could you tell us a little bit about the championship game against Cuba? I understand there were about 45,000 fans there, probably all Cuban partisans. Was that pretty intimidating?

Billy Butler: For the first five or six innings, it was pretty quiet. But when they tied it back up, you couldn't even talk to the person standing next to you, it was so loud. I was just glad to be a part of that team, because we came together and we pulled back ahead and won. The momentum changed when they came back and tied it, so just to come back and win was amazing.

Royals Corner: How would you compare the level of competition there? Was it similar to what you see here, or was it better?

Billy Butler: It's a completely different competition. We get everyone's best when they play us. Some guys didn't throw that hard, but they threw a lot of junk at you – junk balls – and they didn't throw anything straight because we have the reputation of being fastball hitters. So they just did whatever they could to get us out.

Royals Corner: You've had a fantastic season with a lot of highlights and accomplishments – the Texas League batting title, the Futures Game MVP, and now the Gold Medal. If you could pick out one highlight, what would you say your best moment was this season, and where would a Texas League championship rank?

Billy Butler: That's what I was just about to say. A Texas League championship is gonna top it off. That's the main goal for me. It was the main goal when I started the season. I've had a lot of great moments, but you don't plan on winning the Futures Game MVP, and you don't plan on winning the Texas League batting title, and you don't plan on all that stuff. But you can plan on contending for the title here. All that other stuff just happens, and it's all good luck, but we just wanted from the get-go to win the Texas League title.

Royals Corner: What are your off-season plans, once the playoffs are over?

Billy Butler: I'm planning on going back home, and probably taking month off from baseball, but still working out every day. I'm getting ready for winter ball. I'm going down to the Dominican, hopefully, although I haven't heard anything about that. It's been two weeks since I've been in contact with anybody, but that's what the plan was last time I was here. I just plan on playing winter ball somewhere, and just getting ready for spring training next year.
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