Through charitable work, Billy Butler made a lasting impact in KC

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Longtime Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler is headed to the East Bay. On Wednesday Butler signed a deal with the Oakland Athletics for three years, which will pay him $30 million.

Butler became a free agent when the Royals declined to pay his $12.5 million option for 2015. Butler came up through the Royals’ system. He was an All-Star in 2012, and he's provided fans with a lot of thrills along the way.

But perhaps the biggest impact Butler and his family made was through their charitable work.

“From a community standpoint, we have a big hole to fill because Billy was out in the community as much as anybody who wore a Royals uniform in the history of the Kansas City Royals,” Royals Vice President of Community Affairs Toby Cook said.

Baseball fans know Butler for his ability to drive in runs. People in need know the slugger more for his willingness to help others, especially through his Hit-It-A-Ton foundation. Butler's heart can be seen in photos taken with people and organizers at the Bishop Sullivan Center.

Hit-It-A-Ton has helped raise over 32 tons of food, valued at about $500,000 for the center, which strives to provide meals for Kansas City's underprivileged. Bishop Sullivan Center leaders say Butler was a regular volunteer, doing more than merely writing a check for charity.

Cook said Butler has always been first in line when it came to helping people.

“It felt very genuine. He didn't have to try very hard, and he didn't do it because he thought it would be good PR or this is the kind of thing you have to do when you're a pro athlete,” Cook said. “He wanted to do it because he had a name, and he had some resources, and he knew he could make a difference.”

Butler's signature barbecue sauce is still being sold as well. All the proceeds from its sales go to the Bishop Sullivan Center.

Many of Butler's charitable efforts are linked to Zarda Bar-B-Q stores. Terry Hyer, one of the owners of the Zarda company, told FOX 4’s Sean McDowell he isn't sure if Butler's philanthropic endeavors will continue locally, but he hopes they will.