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April 8 - A Royal Future

Think back to all the jokes you've made about baseball in the past few years.  I'll give you a few
minutes.

Chances are, if the punch line didn't contain the name Selig, it contained the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals' World Series title in 1985 wasn't even without controversy.  Had it not been for a close call
involving Jorge Orta and Todd Worrell, they might not even have that.  The 22 years after that call
haven't been so kind to this once-proud franchise.

Things may be about to change – for the much better – in the Midwest.

Former Atlanta Braves executive Dayton Moore has been tasked with rebuilding a system once bereft
of talent at the higher levels of the minor leagues, and though not all his own doing – yet – just look at
some of the names on the horizon in Kansas City.

Left-handed hitting third baseman Alex Gordon completed the short track from stardom at the
University of Nebraska to the hot corner in Kauffman Stadium, and while he may have gotten off to a
slow start in the first couple of games of 2007, there are a lot of great days clearly ahead for him.  He
is joined by right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke, who still battles with one of the most debilitating
conditions in our modern culture, depression.  Greinke's story is one of inspiration for many who
suffer from this affliction, and his performance in his first start of 2007 was wonderful to witness.

Take a look at the horizon, however.  The future is as bright as the Missouri sky for this team.  Three
hours up I-29 in Omaha, the next Royal greats are treading the path at Rosenblatt Stadium, the home
of the College World Series.  Consider outfielder Billy Butler, who has reached the AAA level at the
age of 20, and who hit everything in sight during the Olympic qualifying tournament in 2006.  There is
also left-hander Tyler Lumsden, who starred at Clemson University, and who joined the Royal
organization in a 2006 trade for Mike MacDougal.  Lumsden has great size at 6'4” and 215, is still just
23 years old, and perhaps most importantly for this organization, knows how to pitch.  Power prospect
Justin Huber is also on this club, along with several other names to keep in mind.

The AA club in Wichita should also not be shortchanged, as they too have a number of wonderful
young prospects, led by outfielder Chris Lubanski.  Lubanski followed up a .301/28/116 season in
High Desert in 2005 with a .282/15/70 effort in 137 games at Wichita in 2006.  Lubanski looks to join
Butler in the Royal outfield in relatively short order.  Wichita is also the temporary home to right-
handed pitching prospect Billy Buckner, as well as former University of Tennessee star – and 2006
#1 overall draft selection – Luke Hochevar.  Hochevar was SEC Pitcher of the Year and an All-
American in a 15-win 2005 season for the Volunteers, and compiled a 1.89 ERA in his first 38 pro
innings.  Hochevar combines size and a dominating arsenal to make him one of the most intriguing
pitching prospects in the minor leagues.

If you've read any of my columns through the years or have listened to The Writers Radio, you'll know
my belief in building a strong organization through scouting and development.  The Royals are
starting the right way, with a great crop of youngsters, and personnel (particularly Moore and manager
Buddy Bell) who know what needs to be done.

It may not be this year or the next, but keep laughing at the Royals.  It won't be long before the joke just
may be on you.