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Butler recalls midseason meeting as catalyst

Players-only session, called after four straight losses, a stepping stone for Royals

KANSAS CITY -- It's not difficult for designated hitter Billy Butler to locate a turning point for this year's Royals club.

It came just after the Royals had come out of the All-Star break and registered four straight losses. This after manager Ned Yost had been assuring everyone that this was a "second-half team." Well, the second half wasn't going too well.

So Raul Ibanez, who was part of the Royals' losing history during his Kansas City stay of 2001-03, figured a players-only meeting was in order.

"We came together after that Chicago meeting -- Raul and a couple of the other guys who'd been around for a long time called us together, and it took off from there," Butler said before Tuesday night's American League Wild Card Game.

"Basically, it was just letting us know that we need to realize how good we are, and, especially from the way they prepared for us when they were on different teams this year, nobody was looking forward to playing us. We had a lot of dangerous weapons on our team, and we just needed to realize how good that we were and needed to play with that type of confidence. I think we did from that point on."

The Royals certainly did. After that, the club went 41-23 and reached the postseason for the first time since 1985.

Butler, drafted by the Royals in 2004, knows how much that has meant to Kansas City.

"I was over at the Chiefs' stadium [on Monday] night, and I saw the eruption that they had -- they broke their sound record, and that was impressive just to be a part of that," Butler said. "And they were giving some nice Royals cheers in the middle of that, so I understand the excitement that's in the fan base -- it's just incredible.

"This fan base is amazing. They've put in more pain than I have. I've only been a part for a third of it. I've been here 10 years out of the 29 years in the absence of playoffs. I've only been here for a part of it, and it feels like an eternity."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for
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