Eric Hosmer boarded a flight aftermost December apprenticed for Cincinnati, the burghal he alleged home for two summers as a teenager. The breach was somber, a burial for Joe Hayden, the architect of Midland, one of the country’s best acclaimed abecedarian baseball programs.
Hosmer advised Hayden, who was 85 aback he died, a drillmaster and a role model. As Hayden battled blight aftermost autumn, he still alleged to animate Hosmer during the Royals’ run to the World Series.
In Cincinnati, Hosmer acquainted he had a home abroad from his built-in Miami. Hosmer did not book a auberge allowance for the funeral. Instead he backward with Brian Hiler, an abettor drillmaster for Midland, aloof as he did aback he played for the aggregation in the summer of 2007 and 2008.
“It’s aloof like a no-brainer,” Hosmer said. “You go aback and appointment your parents or article like that, there’s no acumen to get a hotel. That’s family.”
The alikeness will be credible this week. Hosmer expects a ample accidental of admirers to accost him at Great American Ball Esplanade aback the Royals, 71-46, activate a two-game alternation today adjoin the Reds on Tuesday.
Hosmer buried roots in the association during those two summers. He bunked with a approaching All-Star starter. He abstruse how he capital to backpack himself as a man. He grew added adequate as a leader, as a star. At Hayden’s funeral, attendees asked Hosmer for autographs.
“He’s freaking King Kong about here,” Hiler said. “Every Midland kid wears Hosmer T-shirts and jerseys. Before, there was no Royals stuff. Now if you appear to the east ancillary of Cincinnati, you’ll see so abundant Eric Hosmer Royals stuff, you wouldn’t accept it.”
Hosmer arrives in the Queen Burghal on conceivably the best arid band of his career. He holds a 10-game RBI streak, the longest in the majors in 2015. Since Alex Gordon went on the disabled account July 8, Hosmer has hit .409 in 35 games, with six homers, 10 doubles and a 1.114 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
For Midland, which has beatific added than 70 alumni to the majors, Hosmer represents yet addition allotment of its enviable tradition. In the 1980s, the affairs played host to approaching Hall of Famers Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. Added contempo All-Stars accommodate the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke and Yasmani Grandal. Approaching Royals affairs such as Christian Colon, Johnny Giavotella and John Lamb played for Midland.
The active force was Hayden, a abettor who ran the Midland Corporation. Hayden founded the baseball affairs in 1966. It was Larkin who dubbed him “Papa Joe.” Decades later, the appellation still stuck.
Hiler accomplished and recruited for Midland. He aboriginal met Hosmer in the summer of 2006 at the Connie Mack World Alternation in Farmington, N.M. Hosmer was 16, about to access his inferior year of aerial school. He abashed opposing pitchers for a biking aggregation alleged the Florida Bombers.
“I looked at it like,” Hiler said, “I’ve got to accept that guy. I’ve got to accept that guy arena with us abutting year. I don’t appetite to face that guy again.”
The Bombers bankrupt up anon after, and Hosmer approved a new summer team. Hiler recruited Hosmer to comedy on a advance aggregation for a clash that abatement in Jupiter, Fla. Addition drillmaster on the aggregation was Lonnie Goldberg, a Braves advance who would eventually become the Royals’ aloof director.
It was accessible Hosmer bedevilled talent. Goldberg alleged him “the best abecedarian I’ve anytime scouted, easily down.” But he additionally noticed how Hosmer operated as a alarm for the players.
“When annihilation was activity on, you looked in the dugout,” Goldberg said. “Everybody was aerial about him.”
Hosmer enjoyed the acquaintance in Jupiter, and he acquainted Midland offered a different opportunity. So he and Deven Marrero, his abutting acquaintance at American Heritage Aerial and a approaching first-round aces of the Red Sox, arranged their accoutrements for the southwestern bend of Ohio in the summer of 2007.
The two players confused in with Hiler, who lived with his wife about 15 account alfresco the city. Midway through the summer, the abode added addition occupant: a able-bodied right-hander from Connecticut alleged Matt Harvey, who became an All-Star bullpen with the Mets.
The teenagers were bedeviled with baseball. They played best canicule of the week, abounding Reds abecedarian aback they had the adventitious and spent hours thumbing the controls of Hiler’s Xbox. In between, they helped with the domiciliary chores.
“My acquaintance comes out one day and I’ve got Harvey binding the lawn, Hosmer active the backyard mower, Marrero active the backcountry trimmer,” Hiler said. “My acquaintance says, ‘Do you apperception if I get a account of this? This is about $400 actor you’re advantageous for backyard work.’”
At the park, Hosmer accustomed himself as the team’s leader. He bedevilled concrete accoutrement that stood out alike amid the elite. Hosmer slid into the role with ease. It acquainted accustomed to the others about him.
“It’s adamantine to describe,” Hiler said. “He aloof has that ‘It’ factor.”
Hosmer sensed an cardinal calmness amid his new teammates. He approved to “loosen everybody up, a little bit,” he said, so he and Marrero approved to adapt nightly hangouts at the houses of the host families.
“He ashore up for the littlest guy on the team,” said Tigers catcher James McCann, who played for Midland in 2008. “He was the big name, Eric Hosmer. But it didn’t amount who you were on the team. He advised anybody like he capital to be treated.”
Hayden kept an appointment central the Midland fieldhouse. Hosmer and Marrero visited often, allurement for admonition about issues aback home. Hayden afflicted Hosmer with his generosity, aplomb and modesty.
The acquaint served Hosmer able-bodied for his accepted position with the Royals. He is conceivably the best apparent abecedarian in Kansas City. Kids abrasion a crew alleged “The Hoz.” Hosmer understands he charge be affable in public, and he recognizes the albatross that comes with his fame.
“Honestly, I try and act aloof like Papa Joe,” Hosmer said. “The being he did for added people, the way he agitated himself. He had that confidence. But at the aforementioned time, he advised bodies with account and he advised anybody the same.”\
In 2007, Hosmer led Midland aback to Farmington for the Connie Mack World Series. The agenda created a conflict. As Hosmer recalled, he could either comedy in the championship bold in New Mexico on a Saturday night or appear the celebrated Perfect Bold AFLAC All-American Classic in San Diego the abutting morning.
There were no bartering flights that could carriage Hosmer to California in time to accomplish both games. The Midland agents told Hosmer he should go to the advertise if he wanted. Hosmer absitively he could not carelessness his team.
“I don’t appetite to go,” Hosmer told Hayden. “I appetite to comedy for you guys.”
Midland captured the acme and Hosmer becoming the Best Valuable Abecedarian trophy. Account afterwards the victory, Hiler begin Hosmer. There was a even cat-and-mouse for him. Hosmer boarded Hayden’s clandestine jet, complete with two pilots and absolutely one passenger.
“I was cool out, dude,” Hosmer said. “The pilot was account a book aback we were demography off. I was like, ‘What the hell’s activity on?’”
After that aboriginal summer, Hosmer alternate to Miami and caked his continuing as one of baseball’s best abecedarian talents. The Royals chose him third all-embracing in the abstract that June. Hosmer knew his agent, Scott Boras, would argue with the Royals over the signing benefit until the signing borderline in August. Hosmer did not appetite to abide abandoned for two months.
Boras appropriate Hosmer skip addition summer in Cincinnati, Hosmer said. There were millions of dollars at stake, as Boras would eventually accommodate a $6 actor bonus, again the better in Royals authorization history. But Hosmer anticipation about all the hours Hayden counseled him during the summer. He anticipation about the flight to San Diego. He anticipation about the amore he acquainted active with the Hilers. Again he best up the phone.
Hiler congratulated Hosmer on the draft. He told him he admired him well. Hosmer replied that he already had a even ticket, and he would be in Ohio aural a week.
“That’s aback I alone the phone,” Hiler said.
The additional summer alone caked the bonds Hosmer congenital in the first. One day this June, Hiler paused an account with a anchorman to compose himself. He had afraid up as he recalled a adventure he capital to tell.
In the winter of 2007, Hiler’s wife suffered a miscarriage. Aback Hosmer heard the news, he affective his buzz on his cafeteria breach at academy and alleged Hiler. He capital to action his condolences.
“Who does that? At 18?” Hiler said. “I mean, he’s aloof as acceptable as they appear off the field.”
Hiler has two boys now, an 8-year-old alleged Aiden and a 5-year-old alleged Taylor. Both accredit to the Royals aboriginal baseman as “Uncle Eric.” The Hilers will be in the stands acclaim for Hosmer on Tuesday.
As Hosmer would say, that’s family.
“He does not balloon area he came from,” Hiler said. “He is an astonishing guy.”