• STARLING AT CROSSROADS — I’ve had the opportunity to cover a lot of great McPherson High athletes in my nearly 40 years of sports writing.
At the same time, I’ve also covered a lot of great athletes who played against the Bullpups.
Maybe the most gifted athlete ever to play against MHS was Bubba Starling of Gardner-Edgerton.
Who will ever forget the football game in 2010 when the Bullpups hosted Starling’s Trailblazers at McPherson Stadium? Starling, playing quarterback at 6-5 and 200 pounds with long strides and sprinter's speed, rushed for 273 yards and five touchdowns, yet every time he would make a long touchdown run the Bullpups would come back with a score of their own behind the passing of Tyler Matthews, who finished with 376 yards and four touchdowns. Eventually Gardner-Edgerton won the game 49-42, still the best game I’ve ever covered at the stadium, even better than last year’s playoff win over Andale, the Bishop Carroll playoff victory when it was led by Blake Bell and the crazy 66-63 game with Emporia.
Starling also played basketball against the Bullpups at the state tournament in Topeka and I can still see him soaring in for a dunk with most one of the most athletic plays I can remember. He was way above the rim and threw it down with ferocity.
I bring up Bubba because it was announced Tuesday that the one-time No. 1 draft pick of the Kansas City Royals (in 2011) will be out for the year with a right oblique muscle injury.
It’s just the latest setback for Starling, who had finally climbed this year to Triple A, though he was batting only .248 at the time of his injury.
The Royals continue to hold out hope he’s going to one day make it. After all, when you’re the sixth overall pick in the Major League Draft, you’re expected to be a star. There’s no question about his defense and athleticism, he’s probably the most athletic player in the entire Royals system. But he simply has a hard time making contact and now in his sixth year in the chain, you just have to wonder how much longer the Royals are going to wait for the light to go on.
Starling would have been a great college football player, given his size, speed and arm. But he chose baseball and received enough of a signing bonus to probably set himself up for life if he’s invested wisely. I just wish he could enjoy the success that he displayed at Gardner-Edgerton.
I bet the Royals wish that, too.
• PEREZ BACK FOR THE ROYALS — Drew Butera did an admirable job.
But he’s no Salvador Perez behind the plate.
Salvy has proven beyond any doubt he’s the most valuable Kansas City Royal as he returned Tuesday night after a 17-day absence. Not surprisingly the Royals were a 3-2 winner over probable NL playoff team Colorado.
The Royals’ pitching staff suffered mightily without their hulking receiver. Perez has a way of keeping his pitchers under control. For example, do you think Danny Duffy would have been so stoic after surrendering a two-run homer against Colorado last night after an umpire blew what should have been strike three to the previous batter?
Perez also had the game’s clutch hit and the Royals have missed his booming bat.
Butera did a solid job in Salvy’s stead. But he is what he is, a career backup who does better when he plays once or twice a week instead of every day.
Thank goodness Perez is one of the few Royals locked up to a longterm deal and not one of the plethora of free agents who will probably leave after this season.
• GARDEN GAINS BACK — Defending national juco football champion Garden City added a player Monday that could ensure it of repeating.
Dedrick Mills, who was the leading rusher at ACC member Georgia Tech last season, was kicked off the Yellowjackets on Friday.
Monday, he surfaced at Garden City.
Apparently Mills didn’t want to sit out a year. He could have transferred to another D-1 program and sat out, waiting to play next year.
But Mills wanted to keep in football shape, so he’ll no doubt be the Broncs’ best back. All he did last year at Georgia Tech was rush for 12 touchdowns, which ranked No. 3 nationally for all NCAA D-I freshmen.