Last Tuesday, University of Oklahoma softball star Paige Parker came to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, to throw out the first pitch before the hometown Royals played the Boston Red Sox. A native of Independence, Kansas, Parker had earned the invitation by helping the Sooners to a second consecutive NCAA softball national title.
But as she met a collection of Royals before the game, backup catcher Drew Butera had an idea.
He had never caught a softball pitcher, and he was set to receive her first pitch before the game. So how about a few practice tosses?
“So we went down underneath in the cage,” Butera said Tuesday. “And she started throwing a few. And I was like: ‘Well you can’t just throw a fastball, I got to see it all.’ ”
And that is how Butera became a piece of viral content. In a video captured by Mike Swanson, the Royals’ vice president of communications, Parker unleashes a rise ball and knocks Butera back into the netting of the batting cage. Standing behind him, his teammates, including third baseman Mike Moustakas, howl with laughter at the sight.
“The first rise ball, man,” Butera said. “I knew it was going to go up. But it was a whole other level.”
The video surfaced Tuesday via the Oklahoma softball Twitter account. Butera couldn’t help but laugh at his teammates’ reactions.
“It was really cool,” he said. “She had a drop ball, which was like a severe split. She had a curveball, which is like a cutter. For me, the rise ball still blows me away.”
Parker let Butera off the hook for the first pitch, tossing a fastball that dissected the plate.
“It was surreal,” Parker told SoonerSports.com. “I think it’s like a childhood dream come true to get to meet the players. I don’t think I could’ve ever thought of any of that in my wildest dreams to get to interact with them that much.”
Parker is a lifelong Royals fan who counts Eric Hosmer as her favorite player. In 133 appearances for Oklahoma, she has posted a 92-15 record with a 1.58 ERA, 755 strikeouts and 29 shutouts.
“It was cool to see the video and how the guys behind me reacted,” Butera said.