Not taking anything away from his outstanding 2010 season that saw him tie for the Minor League lead in home runs with 36, but he's the first to point out the only reason he was here at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort to collect Minor League Baseball's Joe Bauman Award on Monday, given to the Minors' top home run hitter annually, was because of a tiebreaker with co-homer leader Mark Trumbo of the Angels. It was Moustakas' 124 RBIs, two more than Trumbo's 122, that earned him the trip here.
"I got a couple of text messages during the ceremony from some of the guys I drove in, and they told me, 'Hey, I'll be expecting half of that check you got,'" said Moustakas, who gets $7,200, $200 for each home run he hit, as a result of winning. "It was a lot of fun to be able to be out here.
"To come here and be recognized in front of all these people, it means a lot. Just learning about the history of Joe Bauman [is exciting]. He was a pretty incredible hitter. I'm really honored to receive his award."
Moustakas wasn't the only part of the Royals' organization being honored at the Minor League Baseball Awards luncheon. The Northwest Arkansas Naturals, with whom Moustakas spent half of the 2010 season, was named the Minor League Team of the Year, and the Idaho Halls Chukars were the short-season choice for a Bob Freitas Award, given to teams who have shown tremendous efforts in terms of community involvement.
Coming to the Minor League Baseball Awards luncheon was just the icing on what was a pretty terrific cake for the Royals' first-round pick in 2007. Playing all season at age 21, Moustakas began the year in the Double-A Texas League. He hit 21 homers in 66 games for Northwest Arkansas, helping it to a first-half title and earning an invitation to the Futures Game.
The Los Angeles native got bumped up to Triple-A, and after scuffling a bit as he adjusted -- he hit .247 over his first 19 games -- he finished by hitting .331 with nine homers in 27 August contests. He had one of the biggest games in all of the Minors on Aug. 30, when he hit three homers and a double, driving in 11 runs against Round Rock. From there, he got to play for Team USA in the Pan Am qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico before shutting it down for the year. The only thing missing from his season, the third baseman said, was a title run with his Triple-A club. Omaha finished 81-63, one game out of first in its Pacific Coast League division.
"A championship at Triple-A would've just topped it all off," said Moustakas. "We won in Double-A and that was amazing, but a championship in Triple-A would've done the deed. But it was a great year."
"As a player, I'm trying to get better every day," he continued, going on to continue giving credit to those around him. "But you have to look at it from a team perspective. There are nine guys out there every day, and without those other eight guys, you really don't have an opportunity to succeed."
With the year Moustakas had, there's a chance his next opportunity to succeed could come in Kansas City. As of right now, Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles are the only ones who stand in the way of Moustakas and his bat in terms of personnel. The Royals may decide to let Moustakas get a little more Triple-A seasoning -- not to mention wait until he passes that Super 2 deadline -- before letting him take over. There are those who aren't sure about his ability to handle the position defensively, though he's made a lot of progress at the hot corner. There is little question, however, that his bat will play up there in the very near future.
"They told me to be ready, come into camp ready to fight for a job," Moustakas said. "That's what I've been doing. The guys that play with the Royals in the big leagues right now are all amazing guys. Last year was my first year in big league camp, and everyone was real generous and real nice to me, took me under their wing and showed me the ropes a little bit. I feel a little more comfortable around those guys now. We'll see how this camp goes.
"You can't dwell on what's going on in the front office and what's going on with the business side of baseball. You just have to go out there and play every day and see what happens."