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“If the Royals had taken anyone else with their first-round pick, many fans would have been bitterly disappointed, especially those who still have not forgotten how they let a power-hitting local kid named Albert Pujols get away to St. Louis in the 1999 draft. As a top baseball prospect who had also accepted a football scholarship, Starling was in much the same situation as Joe Mauer. After Mauer turned his back on a Florida State's football program and chose baseball, he became a four-time All-Star with the Minnesota Twins and 2009 AL MVP. When Starling was 8 years old playing in a recreation league, parents complained to his father that they feared their kids might get hurt because Bubba threw and hit the ball so hard. So he was bumped up two years and began competing with 10-year-olds. Playing for suburban Gardner-Edgerton last spring, he batted .481 and averaged a home run every six at-bats. His fastball has been clocked around 95 mph but he played only in center field his senior season. Playing for Team USA in the under-18 category last summer, he batted .399 with three home runs, 12 RBIs and 20 runs scored. But his best sport may be football. His senior season, after rushing for 2,471 yards and 31 touchdowns, he was heavily recruited by just about every major program before signing with Nebraska. "The combination of speed, power, athleticism, the ability to play the field up the middle, we feel like he's got the makings of a star player in the major leagues," said J.J. Picollo, assistant general manager. Moore acknowledged that Starling's being a local kid made his signing even more imperative. "We don't want to get beat in our own backyard. It's very important to us. That being said, if there was another player we felt was better than Bubba Starling from Florida or Texas, we would have selected him. "But there's no doubt it has more appeal to us as an organization a local player, a local talent. This is his boyhood team. This is where he wants to be. He's going to take that field in the minor leagues every day with that vision of playing here in Kansas City, and making his home team proud. You need that motivation because it's very difficult to make it to the major leagues." Nebraska had promised Starling he could play baseball for the Huskers as well as football. "Everyone associated with our football program at Nebraska wishes Bubba nothing but the best in his future with the Kansas City Royals organization," Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini said in a statement. "I know this decision has been very difficult for Bubba and his family, as it would be for anyone in his position. In the end, Bubba was in a win-win situation regardless of his choice, and we respect the decision he has made."
We knew on draft day and prior to draft day that this had a chance to work really, really good or had a chance to go wrong.” -- Royals GM Dayton Moore on Bubba Starling signing