KANSAS CITY -- He stood in the shadows while others dominated the center stage, but now the spotlight shines brightly on the face of Double-A Northwest Arkansas first baseman Clint Robinson.
Robinson won the Texas League Triple Crown after batting .335 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs.
As Robinson and the Naturals entered the final game of the regular season on Monday, he led the league in batting average and home runs. However, Robinson trailed San Antonio's Matt Clark by two RBIs thanks to Clark's two RBIs in his final regular-season game just hours before the Naturals were set to play their last game.
The stage was set, Robinson needed three RBIs in one game to overtake Clark and earn the Triple Crown -- and that's exactly what he did, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
"The first at-bat, I'm not going to lie, it was [on my mind]," Robinson said. "It was pretty ironic, I knew I was two RBIs down, and in my first at-bat, I had a runner on third base with less than two outs. I was like, 'OK, they're pretty much giving this to me, so I need to take advantage of it.'"
Robinson was an integral piece of the puzzle that helped put the Naturals in the playoffs; they're set to open the first round against the Springfield Cardinals on Thursday night. He was the first Triple Crown winner the Texas League has seen in 11 years.
As one would expect, with the Triple Crown comes recognition: phone calls, text messages, e-mails, letters -- you name it, Robinson has received it. Robinson couldn't even remember the names of all those in the Royals' organization who have called to congratulate him.
At last, the spotlight has found Robinson. Selected out of Troy University in the 25th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, the expectations certainly weren't sky high for the Jefferson City, Mo., native. But since his arrival in the Kansas City farm system, Robinson has amassed a career .307 batting average.
"Clint is a guy that was just kind of in the shadows all year, because [Mike Moustakas] had such a great first half," manager Brian Poldberg said. "So he was kind of overshadowed by what [Moustakas] had done, but Clint's numbers from start to finish were good."
The key, for Robinson, has been his new approach at the plate.
"It wasn't so much mechanical stuff in my swing, it was just going up there with a different mind-set," Robinson said. "It was just a matter of going up there relaxed. This was kind of a make-or-break year for me, in my mind."
This "make-or-break year" for Robinson was his first with the Naturals, and Poldberg said it was a wild ride from start to finish.
"It was the first time I've ever been around a situation where there was even a chance for the Triple Crown," Poldberg said. "To actually see him go through the course of the year and the progress he made, it was fun to watch him grow."
So what does the future hold for one of the Royals' most promising prospects?
"He's a guy that is going to go to the next level, and they're going to have to stop his bat," Poldberg said.
Six Royals Minor Leaguers on Team USA
Six Royals Minor League players, most ever selected from one organization for a USA Baseball pro team, were named to Team USA for the Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament next month in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
They are third baseman Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer and pitchers Tim Collins, Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery and Everett Teaford -- all left-handers.
Moustakas, who'll turn 22 on Saturday, tied for the most homers in the Minors with 36 and finished second with 124 RBIs combined for Triple-A Omaha and Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Hosmer, 20, hit .354 for Class A Wilmington to win the Carolina League batting title and also batted .313 at Double-A. He was the Royals' first-round Draft pick in 2008 and Moustakas was the first-round choice in '07.
Collins, 21, a reliever acquired from Atlanta at the July 31 Trade Deadline, had a 3-1 record, a 2.02 ERA and 108 strikeouts and 27 walks in 71 1/3 innings for three teams this year.
Duffy, 21, was 5-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 14 starts this season. He was scheduled to start for Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League playoff opener on Thursday night.
Montgomery, 21, had a 7-5 record and a 2.61 ERA in 20 starts this season. Standing 6-foot-5, he went 5-4 for Northwest Arkansas and was a midseason Texas League All-Star.
Teaford, 26, led the Texas League with 14 victories against three losses for Northwest Arkansas. He had a 3.36 ERA in 27 games, including 12 starts.
In addition, Dale Gilbert of the Surprise Royals, a Rookie team, was named assistant athletic trainer of Team USA.
The 24-man roster consists of players not on a Major League club's 40-man roster. The Colorado Rockies had the second-most players with three. Workouts will begin Sept. 25 in Cary, N.C., and the tournament will be held Oct. 1-10 in San Juan, with 12 countries entered.
Moustakas was named the 2010 Sporting News Minor League Hitter of the Year. In addition, relief pitcher Collins and catcher Wil Myers were named to the publication's All-Minor League Team. The Royals were the only organization with multiple selections. Myers hit .315 with 14 homers and 83 RBIs for two Class A teams. ... Kila Ka'aihue, up with the parent Royals since Aug. 1, still led Omaha with 24 homers and a .319 average. Infielder Scott Thorman led with 84 RBIs. ... Right-hander Anthony Lerew, who spent part of the season with Kansas City, won the Pacific Coast League ERA title at 2.55 for Omaha. ... Forty-year-old Matt Herges, who volunteered for starting duty late in Omaha's season, finished with a 9-4 record. ... Shortstop Christian Colon, this year's first-round Draft choice, had three hits in Class A Wilmington's final game and finished at .278 with three homers and 30 RBIs. He also had 17 errors.
Samuel Zuba is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.