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Billy Butler gets own barbecue sauce

Big League Stew

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(Big League Stew)

Barbecue sauce doesn't necessarily go with a "Country Breakfast" — the righteous nickname of Kansas City Royals slugger Billy Butler — but it does go with his home city, which is renowned for its BBQ selection. And Butler already has a BBQ sandwich named in his honor.

So it does make sense that Butler has become associated with his own sauce, which is being marketed through Zarda, a popular local chain, and sold at area grocery stores. Butler served it up officially for the first time Thursday night at the St. James Place Community Kitchen, which is operated by the Bishop Sullivan Center, which helps administer Butler's Hit-It-A-Ton charity. The center's website says it distributes over a ton of food each day it operates to needy families in Kansas City using two pantries and a community kitchen. Butler and his wife, Katie Butler, have devoted themselves to beating hunger for the past five years.

"It's something my wife became interested while she was in college," Butler told The Stew. "Doing community service was a requirement at Idaho State, so she would help at food pantries."

They've continued to help as a couple. "We realized who were are as people," Butler said.

Butler is happy to help the charity, but he seems a little shy about having food named after him. Still, he's tried the sauce and hopes people will like Billy's Hit-It-A-Ton BBQ Sauce.

"It's a different sauce than what's on the sandwich," Butler said. "We tried it at my house recently. I'd say it's more of a bold flavor. Kind of a standard barbecue taste."

Of course. You don't want to alienate any particular portion of Royals fans by making the sauce too hot, or too sweet, or too smoky. It needs to appeal to the widest possible demographic.

"And 100 percent [of the profits] goes to charity," Butler said.

Butler might not be the first Major League Baseball player to have barbecue sauce named after him, but he might be the first one who also is still playing. Randy Jones, a great left-handed pitcher for the San Diego Padres in the 1970s, has operated a BBQ stand at Petco Park. And Boog Powell, former slugger for the Baltimore Orioles, famously has done likewise at Camden Yards.

Then there's the tale of former minor league baseball player Michael Jordan. He had a deal with McDonalds during his NBA days that included a sandwich named after him that was made with a certain barbecue sauce — which has accrued incredibly in value since the McJordan was discontinued more than 20 years ago.

You probably shouldn't expect to get rich hoarding Billy's sauce for a future payday, no matter how good of a hitter he might be. A 22-ounce bottle is going for $3.58 at the Hy Vee on Route 291 in Lee's Summit, Mo. Like Butler in the middle of the Royals lineup, it's stocked right between other bottles of goodness — next to Zarda's other sauces, the various Gates sauces, Arthur Bryant's, Fiorella's Jack's Stack, L.C.'s and K.C. Masterpiece. Presumably, in stores closer to the Kansas state line, you can find Billy's sauce near Oklahoma Joe's stuff.

It's sort of like Billy Butler's already in the Hall of Fame — of bbq sauces.

"It doesn't really feel like that, or feel like anything," Butler said. "As long as it helps the charity."

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post said incorrectly that a bottle of Billy's sauce was 18 ounces.]

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