The process of expanding the UCF Baseball Complex finally began this past Saturday. The groundbreaking ceremony for what will be named John Euliano Park next year was attended by numerous university luminaries, including President John Hitt, Director of Athletics Danny White and head coach Greg Lovelady. Also in attendance? Drew Butera, a former Knight who is a World Series champion and just completed his eighth season in the major leagues.
Black and Gold Banneret chatted with Butera for a few minutes Saturday. Here is what we discussed with UCF’s most-experienced MLB player. This transcript has been lightly edited.
Black and Gold Banneret: What is this day like for you, just being back here and seeing how this program has progressed?
Drew Butera: It’s very cool, very neat. I’m very proud to see the tradition continue. When I was here, we talked about always expanding ourselves, the program, the university and then making it better. To see the tradition and the pride continue is pretty special.
BGB: Is there any jealousy that you can’t go back and play here now?
DB: No. I think, as Greg (Lovelady) said, every generation paves the way for the next. It’s kind of a sense of accomplishment for the guys before me, our generation, the guys that are here and the future to come, they’ll continue to pave the way for the future to get better.
BGB: What are your thoughts on Greg Lovelady after his very successful first season at UCF?
DB: I think it was really cool. I haven’t met with him a lot, but the few times that I’ve spoken with him, just to hear the passion and desire that he has is really second to none. He has kind of a unique passion that as a leader allows him to lead his team, and you can see that they play hard for him.
DB: It’s cool to see new generations of Knights get to the big leagues. It’s a testament to the program to show how good they are for so many years, to have guys come from this program to succeed to the big leagues.
BGB: How often do you and Eric talk about UCF?
DB: His locker is right next to mine, so we talked a lot about how things have changed from when I went to school here to when he was here.
BGB: With MLB spring training beginning right around the start of the college baseball season, how often are you able to come back here?
DB: Not often. I try to come back. I live here in the offseason full-time. Maybe now that I have a good relationship with the coaching staff here and the university, I’ll come back a little bit more.
BGB: How nice is it to spend this day here with your fiance and your father (who played nine years in MLB)?
DB: Yeah, it’s cool to have family always around, and that’s what I love.
BGB: You have one more year on your contract with the Royals, so what are you looking forward to in 2018?
DB: Just started my workouts. I’m going to get into the grind that way and looking for another winning season, hopefully. The obvious goal is the World Series every year and that’s going to be our goal this year.
BGB: What was it like catching the final out of a World Series?
DB: Honestly, when that happened, there are no words that I can say to describe it. It was one of the most special moments of my life, something I’ll never forget. It’s probably one of the happiest moments of my life as well.
BGB: Where is the ball from the final out?
DB: I had it. I kept it for a while and then about halfway through the offseason, over some long thinking, I realized it wasn’t just me who won the World Series. It wasn’t like I was an Olympic sprinter who put in the hours and got to keep the final prize. It was a team, it was a front office, it was an organization, it was a city, really, and it belonged back to them. We had a FanFest and we did a little presentation. I gave it back to the Royals and they have it on display in their hall of fame.
BGB: Can you believe you are about to enter your ninth year in Major League Baseball?
DB: Time flies, it really does. We just went back into the clubhouse and saw the picture in 2005 when they put the plaque up (recognizing him as one of the program’s Knights of Honor) and I was like, ‘My god, I look like I’m 12.’ They always say time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been a fun ride and hopefully it continues for quite some more time.