Kansas City's Hoz and Moose a Royal pair
Rookies from opposite sides of country have much in common
SAN FRANCISCO -- So, the story goes, Mike Moustakas talked his buddy Eric Hosmer into playing some golf during a break in Royals Spring Training.
Hoz admits he's not a golfer but, hey, he'd keep Moose and a couple buddies company.
"We go golfing out in Arizona for the first time. We go to the driving range and I'm struggling. I'm not really hitting anything," Hosmer said.
Off they went to the first tee and Hosmer sliced his shot. Go ahead, hit another one the other guys said, so Hosmer teed up another ball and -- boom -- hit it very hard. Everyone scanned the horizon.
"I immediately looked up and said, 'Did you see the ball?' And everyone is like, 'No. I think you hit it too far because we lost it,'" Hosmer said. "It sounded good and everything. So we're looking for the ball and we couldn't see it."
So they decided to jump into the carts and check the fairway. That's when Hosmer leaned down for his tee and made a startling discovery. Slyly, he asked Moustakas if he'd grab his tee for him.
"So he goes to grab my tee and he sees my ball buried like 10 feet under the ground. It left this huge hole and it's all the way at the bottom," Hosmer said. "I have no idea how I pulled that one off. That's the weirdest thing that ever happened. It went right into the ground. There was a big divot and the ball was stuck all the way at the bottom."
OK, 10-feet deep was a bit of an exaggeration.
Even so, as Moustakas testified: "The ball was buried underneath the grass, I'd say a good three or four inches into the dirt. It was incredible and it was right in front of the tee."
"It's true, as true as it can get," Moustakas said. "We tried figuring it out. We did some math behind it. There's no logical reason that what he did happened. I still can't figure out how he did it."
If the story defies probability, not to mention golf logic, it amplifies one fact -- Hosmer is a hard hitter. And, obviously, he does it best on the baseball field, as he's already proving in a Kansas City uniform.
Now Moustakas has caught up with him, and they'll again both be in KC grays against the Oakland A's in a series that begins Tuesday night.
Both first-round draft choices, Moustakas in 2007 and Hosmer in 2008, they've been teammates in the Minors and with Team USA in the Pan American Qualifying, as well as roommates in Spring Training. They anchor both sides of the diamond, Moose at third base, Hoz at first base. They're both potent left-handed hitters, the top prospect position players in the Royals' blueprint for respectability.
Golfing buddies? Well, that might be a stretch. But they're good friends.
Moustakas remembered that they met at the Arizona Instructional League after Hosmer signed.
"We've been hanging out ever since," he said.
They came from different sides of the country -- Moustakas from the Los Angeles area, Hosmer from south Florida -- but they had a lot in common. Close-knit and caring families. The same high-powered agent, Scott Boras. The same belief that the Royals were an organization on the rise. And the ability at a young age -- Hosmer is 21, Moustakas 22 -- to step onto the Major League stage with not only enthusiasm but grace and polish.
"They've been getting some hype for the last year or year and a half," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They're used to it. It's not like they just stepped out of a cave."
Oddly, Moustakas was expected to be the first of the dynamic duo to be summoned to Kansas City. Last season he'd ripped through Double-A Northwest Arkansas (.347, 21 homers, 76 RBIs in 66 games) and then held up well with Triple-A Omaha (.293, 15 homers, 48 RBIs in 52 games).
Third base was put under the care of Mike Aviles and Wilson Betemit, but they were aware that Moustakas was on his way. Yet, with Hosmer off to a sizzling start (.439) in his first season at Omaha this spring, and Kila Ka'aihue struggling as the Royals' first baseman, it was Hoz who got the first callup on May 6.
"I was excited for him," Moustakas said. "I was seeing one of my best friends reach his dream. I couldn't have been more excited. I heard the news when I was in the cage taking some flips. I ran straight to him, gave him a hug and let him know he's going to be there for a while."
The friends stayed in touch, of course, with phone calls and texting. Then, after last Thursday's game, Yost and general manager Dayton Moore made a snap decision to bring up Moustakas and send down the struggling Aviles.
The Royals moved a bit slower on Moustakas, in part, because while Hoz was smokin' hot early in the season for Omaha, Moose was plodding along. Oh, he was driving in runs but his April average was a sluggish .229. Hosmer insists that he wasn't fooled by the numbers.
"When I was done in Triple-A in April, he was hitting the ball but it was cold, the wind was blowing in every day and the wind was knocking everything down," Hosmer said. "He didn't have any luck at all, but it was only a matter of time before it warmed up and those balls start flying."
Sure enough, in his last 34 games for Omaha, Moustakas hit .321 and arrived in Anaheim with an overall .287 mark and 15 doubles, 10 homers and 44 RBIs in his 55 games.
Despite joining the Royals near his home of Northridge, Calif., amid a flurry of family and friends and media attention, Moustakas eased into his new world with ease. He came out of his first big league series against the Angels at .300 (3-for-10) and his first home run, while handling everything that came his way at third base.
Meanwhile, Hosmer went hitless in the series and is battling his first skid (0-for-14) since joining the club. Even so, he's hitting .284 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 35 games, including 26 in the No. 3 lineup spot.
"On the field, all we want to do is win. That's the way we've been brought up in this organization -- we're taught to win," Moustakas said. "When you get between the lines, there's nothing more important than what's going on that pitch. That's kind of how we've approached things our whole careers, and it's going to pay off in the end. The Royals have done a great job bringing us up."
While both players are intensely focused on the field, they have the ability to relax off the field.
"I'm all about video games, I love video games -- Call of Duty," Hosmer said. "I'm probably on that way too much."
They got into racing remote-controlled model cars during Spring Training. And as with all young, growing athletes, an important time of the day is meal time.
"We try to go out to some nice steak place or Olive Garden, one of my favorites," Moustakas said.
And then, of course, there's always golf. Or maybe not.
"I'm pretty much the worst golfer ever," Hosmer said.
He just needs to remember to yell "Fore!" in case there are any moles nearby.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.