I am trying to remember the last time I was so impressed with a high school athlete. I've seen quite a few in my time, and most of them were high school football players in my home state of Texas.
I remember a high school all-star team my junior year in high school that included Earl Campbell, John Jefferson, Tony Franklin and Mike Renfro. They all later played in the NFL, and they all played on a Texas High School All-Star team that LOST, to another team of All-Stars. I was impressed with them all as high schoolers, but my eye at that time was young. Who wouldn't be impressed?
My eye now is more mature, and skeptical. And that brings me to Bubba Starling. It was August of 2009, and I was covering a football game between Gardner-Edgerton H.S. and Eudora (I think). Anyway, Gardner-Edgerton had the ball, and Starling was playing QB.
The Blazers broadcast crew does all the games via the web, and they asked me to come up and be a guest during a brief portion of the second half. I was talking in mid-sentence, when Starling rolled to his right, and as a defender lunged at him, I stopped in amazement to see Starling, off balance, throw a 40-yard rope to a receiver streaking down the sideline. Perfect pass. Touchdown. My jaw dropped and I said 'WOW'. The broadcast crew all erupted in laughter and the crowd went nuts. Since then, I've been sold on the wonder and talent of Bubba Starling.
Whatever 'it' is, he's got it, and I knew it right then. Kenyon Rasheed had it while playing at Rockhurst H.S. in the late '80's. Anthony Peller had it while playing basketball at Paseo during that same time period. And whatever 'it' is, Bubba Starling uses it whenever he takes the field for football, baseball or basketball.
Sure, he can dunk. At 6-4 or 6-5, that's no surprise. But basketball's not his game. His games are football and baseball, and that's why he's signed to play both sports at Nebraska. Baseball is why he was the Royals first round draft pick on Monday.
Bubba Starling was 'the' best athlete available in the draft, high school or college. He's a 5-tool player: with speed, glove, and an arm, he can also hit for power and average, and he seems to do it all with such ease. It all seems so natural.
The hard part of Starling now will be deciding what to do with his future. Should he sign with the Royals for what could be a $6 million dollar signing bonus? Should he turn down the money and head to Nebraska? Tough choice. I've talked to several in the Gardner-Edgerton school district who say Starling is surrounded by a superb support group of family and friends. Whatever choice he makes, rest assured it will be well thought out.
All I know is either one Big 10 school is going to be really happy, or really disappointed. And one major league baseball franchise that makes its home in Kansas City is going to be really happy or really disappointed. I say this because I've seen Starling play both football and baseball. And this Bubba ain't no Bubba Gump.