Could 2012 be the breakout year for the Kansas City Royals?

The team's starting first baseman, 22-year-old Eric Hosmer, thinks so.

Following the Royals' 5-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, Hosmer offered up his thoughts on his club.

"All the guys are really fired up," Hosmer said. "We ended on a good note last year, and all of the guys were champing at the bit in the offseason to get back out here and start playing."

Hosmer recalled his 2011 MLB debut with a smile: "Last year was a crazy year for me. Everything just happened really fast, but with all of the support around the organization, it was just real easy for me to go out there and do my job."

For Hosmer, that first big-league game had been a long time coming. From the age of 13, he'd been dreaming of going pro. After playing ball with his older brother Mike (a role model of his), Hosmer began garnering attention from a few travel teams. And from there, the Royals picked him in the first round of the 2008 draft, straight out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla.

After a few years of climbing the Minor League totem pole, Hosmer, who cuts an intimidating figure at 6-foot-4, found himself in Kansas City in May 2011. The rest, as they say, is history: Hosmer finished the season with a .293 batting average, 19 homers, 11 stolen bases, and 78 RBI -- all in a matter of 128 games.

Hosmer said he's quickly learned that mentality is a crucial part of playing the game.

"There are certain days you are just really tired -- you don't think your body can play that day. You just have to go out there and get through the day," he said.

"I think it's the guys that are mentally the strongest that have the best chance to succeed in the Major Leagues."

But along with the tough stuff, Hosmer's picked up on the simpler joys of baseball.

"The best part [of playing professional baseball] is when you win a ball game. There is no better feeling than when you get in the locker room after the game. There are tough times when your team is losing, [but] the good times make up for the bad times, that's for sure," Hosmer noted.

Hosmer's goals for his team in the 2012 season remain lofty.

"I want the team to make the playoffs," he said. "What St. Louis did last year ... once you make the playoffs, anything can happen."