ESPNU gave us a glimpse into the mind and demeanor of Bubba Starling last night by televising a high school football game. It was very good to see and I’m sure more pro baseball scouts were there last night than anyone imagined. But, those guys were there to get a glimpse of the kid who a few think has a chance to go number one overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. That is some high praise so any chance I get to see this kid, I’ve got to take it. If you missed it, page through the guide on ESPNU and they might be showing it again. So here’s what I saw from the HS football game.
The first thing you noticed was how calm Starling was on the field at the start of this game. It was the biggest thing to happen to Gardner, Kansas in maybe forever. This was a rivalry game so you’d expect things to get chippy at some point if not right away. But Starling was quiet and calm even after scoring a TD. This tells the pro baseball guys who are breaking down his life that he can handle pressure.
The second thing you noticed was the speed. The announcers talked about a 4.36 Datroniks 40 time and I think it might have been an off day for the 6’5″ Starling. He is fast. And big. And strong.
The third thing I noticed was Starling patting guys on the back and helmet telling them good job. He praised his blockers, he praised his RBs, he praised his WRs, and he praised the guys who were lucky enough to tackle him. This tells the pro scouts that he is a guy who will share the spotlight and that Starling has some very good leadership qualities.
The fourth thing you noticed was that he handed the ball to the referee after every play. This shows a certain amount of respect for authority.
The fifth thing you noticed was when he took a late hit he didn’t respond except to tell the referee about it. But the very next play, after he handed the ball off and a kid blatantly hit him late in the lower back while he was watching his teammate fight for yards 25 yards away, you could tell he was angry. I think the blow knocked the wind out of him, but he got up ready to blow someone away. But rather than wanting to fight, he decided he was going to beat you on the field. After Gardner-Edgerton scored later in the drive, he made a point to let the guy who hit him late to check the scoreboard by pointing to it as they crossed paths. Whether it was warranted or not, it shows you that he will respond when needed in a way that is more appropriate than fighting. Even though he drew the 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty, his point had been made. The Blazers then proceeded to run up the score a little but not one mention of the scoreboard or taunting from Starling was seen again in the game.
What can you take away from a game where you are watching Starling play a different sport than you’re wanting him to play for you? You get vital information on his athletic makeup. In this instance you saw maturity, respect of authority, the ability to work under pressure, leadership, wisdom in decisions, passion, fire, a desire to share the spotlight, and a competitive drive to get back at someone on the field rather than get into a fight, but the willingness to fight if warranted. You saw a kid who is mature enough to handle the big contract numbers that will be thrown at him if he is drafted by the Royals with the 5th pick. That is, if he is available.
Oh, and you saw a very fast kid make a heck of a throw as well. I’m sold.