05/07/11 12:54 AM ET
Hosmer ready for winning ride in Kansas City
Rookie phenom's arrival to bigs has Royals fans excited
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Let manager Ned Yost clue you in.
"I had two people roll their windows down driving in today, telling me how excited they were about this kid being here and the way that we've played," Yost said.
Now that was something of a surprise.
"Normally I drive down the street and nobody says a word," he said. "So, to have it happen twice in one day, was a little odd."
Hosmer, 21, creator of a .439 average for Omaha, was sprung upon this place called Cowtown on Friday. He was given uniform No. 35, installed in the sixth spot in the Royals' lineup and stationed at first base against the Oakland A's.
When it was over the A's had won, 3-2, and Hosmer had gone 0-for-2 with two walks, two strikeouts and a stolen base. He also handled 13 putouts without a flaw and started a double play.
"I'm glad I can get this debut out of the way and move on from this," Hosmer said afterward. "I am definitely never going to forget this day and just build off it."
Before all that, of course, he had to run the publicity gauntlet and had the rare pleasure of facing an interview room chockfull of reporters, microphones, cameras and, at the last minute, his family arriving from Florida. Just then Jeff Montgomery, a Royals Hall of Fame pitcher and TV analyst, asked Hosmer whom he had to thank for his arrival in the Major Leagues.
"My family, no doubt. When I called my mom and dad and brother and told 'em that I did it, I didn't say 'I made it,' I said, 'We made it,'" Hosmer said. "Because I felt like it was a complete family effort. If it's my dad going out and throwing me BP on days he's coming off a 48-hour shift, or my mom staying up all night and helping me with my homework, or me and my brother watching film that my mom would take during a high school game -- it's unbelievable."
Hosmer, as he demonstrated at the big league camp during Spring Training, is a polished young man as capable of saying the right thing as picking the right pitch to hit.
With his arrival prompting a big spike in interest around town and some unusual afternoon activity at the ticket windows, Hosmer bowed to the fans.
"It just shows how passionate this town is about their baseball here and these guys in the lockerroom know that. Just watching them on TV every game down there, you can just see how much fun they're having," he said.
"I got a little taste of it this spring and, if anything, that left me hungry to come back here and work that much harder to get back here."
Hosmer obviously senses, too, the hunger of Kansas City to get back into postseason play, a level that hasn't been reached since 1985, four years before he was born in South Miami, Fla.
"Being from Florida, I really didn't know much about the Royals but ever since I signed and being around the alumni guys like Frank [White] and George [Brett], just hearing the stories about when they played and they were in the playoffs making runs for the World Series every year, just hearing the excitement in their voices when they tell those stories is unbelievable," Hosmer said. "Everybody in the Minor Leagues and here has that goal -- to get this city back in the playoffs and winning ballgames."
Hosmer said the quick call-up from Triple-A was a surprise and, indeed, most close observers of the Royals expected it wouldn't happen until perhaps June, a move that probably would have delayed his entry into the salary arbitration process by a year, thereby saving the club untold millions.
"He went far beyond the ability to produce. He forced our hand with his production," Yost said. "This wasn't something that we anticipated doing this early."
All along, in fact, it was expected that third baseman Mike Moustakas would be the first of the two top hitting prospects to get the promotion. However, Moustakas had a relatively slow start (.235) for Omaha while Hosmer's stats were staggering.
"He was the happiest one for me there in that clubhouse -- that says a lot for a guy like him," Hosmer said. "He's hitting ball hard down there, it's just stuff's not going his way right now, but some of those balls are going to start dropping, and there's no doubt in my mind he's going to be up here doing the same thing I'm doing in the near future."
Hosmer talked to the reporters for just over 10 minutes, then had to hustle into the clubhouse for his first round of the strategy meetings that precede each series.
He left the table where he'd also sat in August 2008 after signing as the club's first-round draft choice and heading off to Idaho Falls, a Rookie team.
"It's unbelievable I'll be playing here in Kansas City [Friday]," Hosmer said.
Yost, replacing the kid at the dais, compared him with some hot prospects he'd seen as a coach at Atlanta such as Chipper Jones and manager at Milwaukee such as Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Braun especially rang a familiar chord.
"The difference was Braun was a college player, but he was lighting the world on fire down there and we had a need at third base and we brought him up," Yost said. "And he never looked back. He ended up winning Rookie of the Year that year. The first day I had him hitting sixth and the next day I had him hitting third. Now that won't happen here because we've got more veteran players that are going to occupy those spots. But it's a lot alike."
After watching Hosmer and other young players work with veterans during Spring Training, Yost sees no transition issues in the KC clubhouse for Hosmer who becomes the seventh rookie on the 25-man roster.
"I was floored by the chemistry in our clubhouse, how they meshed together very, very well," Yost said. "There's not going to be any transitioning or anything. He's going to fit right in."
Hosmer seemed confident about just about everything.
"Anything I can do to help this team win, I'm going to do it," he said. "And it's going to be a fun ride."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.