06/11/2003 8:36 PM ET
Royals ink deal with Lubanski
No. 5 pick will report to rookie camp Monday
KANSAS CITY -- He came, he saw, he hit one out.
Chris Lubanski, the No. 5 overall pick in last week's First-Year Player Draft, lived the dream Wednesday during his first visit to Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City's top draft selection put his signature on a contract that will bring him a $2.1 million signing bonus. He hung out in the clubhouse with the Royals and blasted a Tony Pena batting practice pitch over the right-field wall.
Not a bad day for an 18-year-old who just graduated from Kennedy-Kenrick (Pa.) High School. At a press conference just before the Royals-Diamondbacks game, Lubanski reiterated his desire to be back at Kauffman Stadium in three years as the center fielder for the Royals.
The unique aspect of the Royals-Lubanski saga was the speed in which the No. 5 overall pick agreed to terms. Negotiations often drag with players taken near the top of the draft. But not this time.
"Talent-wise, it was exactly what we were looking for," said Deric Ladnier, the Royals' senior director of scouting. "Character-wise, it was exactly what we were looking for. And I feel like the family embraced the Royals and said you guys are exactly what we're looking for. That's the reason the negotiations went so quickly.
"You couldn't paint a better picture for us or for Chris. Nobody wanted to play games. When you're in a perfect situation, why wait it out? His goal was not to wait out the whole summer to see if he could get an extra few dollars."
Lubanski will report to the Royals' rookie camp in Arizona on Monday and begin the process of working his way up the minor league ladder. Wherever he goes and whatever he does, Lubanski will never forget Wednesday's first visit to Kauffman Stadium.
"I talked to Mike Sweeney," Lubanski said. "He told me to keep working hard and have fun. It's a game. Just being out there taking batting practice was really cool. I was a little nervous, but once I got out there, everyone treated me as one of the guys."
The left-handed hitting Lubanski has a smooth stroke and excellent speed. He's 6-foot-3, 190 pounds and the Royals project him as a player who will eventually hit with power.
Lubanski was the 2003 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year after hitting .528 for Kennedy-Kenrick this season. Royals' area scout Sean Rooney handles the Northeast and was instructed around April 15 to follow Lubanski in extensive fashion.
"He (Rooney) was there every day," Ladnier said.
As a freshman in high school, Lubanski set a goal of becoming a Major League player.
"I would get up in the morning before school and take swings," Lubanski said. "When I got home, I would take more swings. I'd run, I'd lift."
Lubanski was making an investment in his future. On Wednesday, he got the first big dividend on that investment.
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com