Kansas City Royals

Bubba Starling's on board with the Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Outfielder Bubba Starling buttoned the Royals' No. 1 jersey Wednesday afternoon at an introductory news conference in the crowded interview room adjacent to the clubhouses on the first floor at Kauffman Stadium.

"How's it look?"

The long negotiating process — and the tough decision between the Royals and football scholarship at Nebraska — quickly faded into the background. All that mattered is what comes next.

"This is pretty special," he said. "I definitely wondered (if it would happen). It was a long process, but that's part of it. At the end of the day, it came down to two great options."

Starling, 19, reached an agreement with the Royals just seconds prior to the Monday's deadline on a club-record signing bonus of $7.5 million spread over three years. He picked the Royals over a football scholarship to Nebraska.

"I chose baseball," he said. "I just thought I'm ready to start my baseball career. It was stressful, but it was fun. This was my first love."

This was Starling's first public appearance since Monday's agreement. He passed a physical examination Tuesday and actually signed the contract Wednesday immediately prior to the news conference.

Starling's parents and two sisters attended the news conference. Starling, at 6 feet 5 and 205 pounds, sat at the head table, facing the media, flanked by his agent, Scott Boras, and general manager Dayton Moore.

"This is, obviously, a very proud day for us as an organization," Moore said. "These types of events don't occur unless you have people on the same page working for the same goal. That's what we had here."

Starling was a multi-sport standout at Gardner-Edgerton High and is, arguably, the highest-ceiling talent to come out of the Kansas City area since baseball began conducting a draft in 1965.

"The value of a player often is what's available and not where they reside from," Boras said. "What his known skills are, and how much does he have to improve to be a major-leaguer?"

Starling, for his part, is blandly confident.

"Definitely athletic," he said when asked for a personal scouting report. "I played three sports in high school. I can pretty much do anything you want me to do on the field. As far as the outfield, I can run down any kind of fly ball. I read it real well.

"My batting, there is some stuff that can be worked on because when you're playing three sports in high school, you don't get to get concentrate on one sport like some other guys do.

"I can't wait to see what I can do with the great instructors in Arizona and by playing one sport all year round. I just think I could be pretty good."

Plans call for Starling to depart Saturday for the Royals' year-round complex in Surprise, Ariz. Neither he nor any of the players signed Monday will play in the Arizona Rookie League, which concludes Aug. 29.

"For as little baseball activity that he's had over the summer," assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said, "trying to get him started up to get going that fast just doesn't make a lot of sense."

Starling will play in the Instructional League, which begins Sept. 18 and runs through Oct. 21. The typical weekly program consists of games Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesdays and Saturday serving as camp work days. Sunday is an off day.

Games begin the week of Sept. 26.

Starling acknowledged the competition will be keener than anything he's previously experienced.

"I'm from Kansas," he said, "and there is some good competition here. But some of those (other) guys are from California, Florida and Texas — bigger places where they have better competition.

"That doesn't mean anything to me. I just think I'm going to have to step up my game. The competition is going to be way different, but I can handle it. I'm a competitor, and I like new challenges."