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01/11/12 7:55 PM EST

Prospect Melville takes pride in helping others

Minor League pitcher honored by Royals with Sweeney Award

KANSAS CITY -- It was typical of Royals pitching prospect Tim Melville.

Last October, Scott Sharp, the director of Minor League operations, phoned Melville to inform him that he'd won the Mike Sweeney Award that recognizes a player that demonstrates a special giving spirit off the field.

"He had just gotten back from a search for a missing child in Richmond," Sharp said.

Melville, spending the offseason in Richmond, Va., heard that a 9-year-old autistic boy had wandered off from his family in a wooded area and was lost, so he volunteered for the search party. There was a happy ending to what became a national story: The boy was found six days later.

"Luckily he was found safe and alive," Melville said. "The next day the temperature dropped 20 degrees, so it was a blessing. It was an amazing story."

Melville, who was honored at Wednesday's Royals Awards Luncheon, just seems to gravitate toward helping others -- and quietly.

"He just does it when other people aren't looking, and even Mike Sweeney said in the instructional league: That's what character is -- doing the good things when people aren't watching," Sharp said.

Melville, who had an 11-10 record and a 4.32 ERA last summer for Class A Wilmington, spent a lot of his spare time visiting hospitals, schools and other community venues for the Blue Rocks. For his charitable bent, he credits lessons learned from his father, Mike, and his mother, Valerie, as well as time spent in a hospital as a 10-year-old in Virginia.

"It was through the experiences I've had in my life, just the help that I've had myself," he said. "It's just a domino effect. You just pass it on. I just enjoy helping others because I was helped as a child."

Melville was born with a sunken chest that eventually caused him problems breathing.

"He'd be hitting home runs and running around the bases but wouldn't want to go out after the game with anyone because he was too tired," said Valerie Melville, who attended the luncheon with daughter Mary. "That was just how it affected him. It would have just gotten worse and affected his growth and his ability to perform at a high level."

The deformity needed to be corrected surgically -- a steel rod was inserted into his chest for about 1 1/2 years. He remembers that as a very tough time in his young life.

"I was in the hospital for a week and a half. I had my baseball team come in. It was right in the spring and it was go-time," he said. "I see these kids in the hospital today and they're there for a year and that just makes my heart weep."

So when Melville encounters a child facing what he calls a "boulder" in life's road, he can tell his own story about climbing over and going on, in his case becoming a professional ballplayer.

"It's fun, you get a different sense of connection," Melville said. "You can always donate, you can always send money, but you get a lot more of it when you can actually help people out by being there."

A fourth-round Draft choice by Kansas City in 2008, the right-hander out of Wentzville (Mo.) Holt High School encountered a few obstacles on the baseball trail. He debuted in 2009 with Class A Burlington with a 7-7 record and 3.79 ERA in 21 starts. But in 2010 he slipped to 2-12 and a 4.97 ERA after moving up to Wilmington for 22 starts. So his 11-10 mark last year was a big improvement.

"It was definitely a work in progress," Melville said. "We'd worked on some stuff the previous year just to try a new delivery and it's been kind of up and down. There'd be three good games when I'd be happy with it, but I'm the kind of guy that never settles. I'm always trying to get better. But it was a better year definitely than the year before."

Melville, 22, is hoping to move up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas for the coming season.

"He continues to progress," Sharp said. "Maybe some people would have wanted more at this point, but I don't think that's fair. Not everyone flies through the system. He's going to get it, he's going to be fine. Some guys just take a little bit longer."

When it comes to connecting with people, though, Melville is way ahead of the pack.

Valerie Melville told Sweeney about how she and her daughter flew from Virginia to Arizona to visit Tim last year in Spring Training. They were all geared up to go out to dinner, but the pitcher had promised a young fan and his father that he'd show up at the kid's game that evening. A promise is a promise, so dinner with the family had to be delayed a couple of hours while they watched the youngster, who was maybe 5 or 6, play ball.

"How do you grow a humanitarian?" his mother said. "I don't know. All kids are different. I have five children and each one of them have different strengths and that's just who he is. And to watch him become that person is really neat."

Melville, like many of the recipients and speakers at Wednesday's luncheon, is caught up in the groundswell of optimism for the young 2012 Royals.

"You fans are about to get what you've been waiting for a long time," Melville told the audience. "So get ready, be prepared."

Maybe, before long, he'll be part of it.

Wednesday at the Overland Park, Kan., Convention Center


Les Milgram Player of the Year: Alex Gordon

Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year: Bruce Chen

Joe Burke Special Achievement Award: Eric Hosmer


Dick Howser Player Development Person of the Year: Mike Jirschele

Mike Sweeney Award (recognizing a player who best represents the organization on and off the field): Tim Melville

Willie Wilson Baserunner of the Year: Anthony Seratelli

Frank White Defensive Player of the Year: Lorenzo Cain

Paul Splittorff Pitcher of the Year: Kelvin Herrera

George Brett Hitter of the Year: Johnny Giavotella

Matt Minker Award (recognizing an outstanding affiliate employee): Eric Edelstein

Other awards

Dan Quisenberry Special Achievement Award (recognizing an outstanding member of the community: Lois Lakey

Art Stewart Scout of the Year: Orlando Estevez

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.