University of Nebraska/Kansas City Royals
Hometown: Gardner, Kan.
There is no truth to the rumors that Bubba Starling could hit 10 home runs, rush for 350 yards, cure the common cold, reverse the trade deficit and teach the cast of “Jersey Shore” some manners — all in the same afternoon. It only seems that way.
The remarkable two-sport prep star had a legendary career at Gardner Edgerton High just outside of Kansas City and entered his summer faced with the decision of his young life. He could play football and baseball at Nebraska, or he could begin his professional diamond career as a millionaire draft choice — fifth overall — of the hometown Kansas City Royals. A run at the Nobel Peace Prize and the discovery of the meaning of life were other options.
Simply put, Starling is a rare blend of physical prowess and a small-town, aw-shucks personality that has made him beloved in Gardner and coveted beyond the small town’s boundaries.
“He’s such a good, good kid,” says Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg. “He comes from such a good family.”
In many ways, Starling brings us back to the days of malt shops and double features. He is unfailingly polite and generous with his time. If you believe the many reports about him, nearly every kid in Kansas has his autograph, and the rest might well be in line waiting for him to sign right now. He won’t disappoint them.
And he likely won’t disappoint whichever suitor he chooses. If he heads to Nebraska, he’ll play football and baseball, following a carefully laid-out plan presented to him on his recruiting visit last winter. Huskers coach Bo Pelini would love to have him under center, especially given the school’s history of running quarterbacks.
Starling rushed for 2,417 yards and 31 TDs last year and rolled up 395 in his final game. The 6'5", 195-pounder also has a strong arm, which he protected by not pitching during his senior year in high school, per Pelini’s request. When people predicted he would automatically grab the big baseball money, Starling responded by telling ESPN.com, “They don’t know. They don’t know I love football as much as I do.”
He’s pretty fond of the diamond, too. He hit .481 this past season and hit a homer every six at bats, including a couple that traveled so far they had to go through customs to get back onto the field.
“He’s got a lot of tools,” Goldberg says. “He’s an extremely gifted athlete and an extremely gifted competitor and winner. He’s got some rawness to him, but on the baseball diamond, his athleticism and competitiveness will allow him to play through that.”
Perhaps Starling’s biggest asset is his ability and desire to succeed. “He’s never done a thing where failure was involved,” Goldberg says.
Starling has enrolled at Nebraska and begun taking classes and working out. By mid-August, he’ll have decided whether he wants to take the money or stay in Lincoln. Whatever he does, expect him to thrive.
Like there’s another option.
Update: Bubba is reportedly asking for $10 million dollars from the Royals, upping the ante from the already mind-boggling $7.5 million offer Kansas City has put on the table. Scott Boras, Bubba’s agent has commented, but Royals’ GM Dayton Moore has said that there has been little progress in negotiations. The deadline to sign drafted non-college seniors is midnight ET on August 15th. Bubba is currently participating in Nebraska football drills until he gets news that he’s a Kansas City Royals. We’re pretty sure he’ll stop hitting the sleds right after he gets that phone call.