KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' 16-year-old Italian signee, shortstop Marten Gasparini, is spending a couple of days in town for a physical examination and to meet the team.
So far, Gasparini has passed his physical, eaten barbecue and visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in addition to taking batting practice and attending the games.
"I chose this team because it was the best fit for me. They are great people and it feels like a family," Gasparini said. "It is great to be here with this great organization and I hope I can get a shot to get to the Majors with them."
Gasparini will receive a signing bonus of $1.3 million, highest ever for a European, eclipsing the previous mark of $750,000. He is ranked as MLB.com's No. 4 international prospect and the top European on MLB.com's list of the 30 top international prospects.
"I try to not think about it," Gasparini said. "They can say what they want and I can control what I do on the field. Maybe there are a lot of expectations, but that is none of my business. Whatever I can do on the field and in weight training, I will do that, then it will work out in games, too."
Gasparini, a switch-hitter who is listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, said his biggest asset is his speed.
"I'm kind of a fast runner so, I try to use my speed in every part of my game," Gasparini said. "It will help me on defense and in the batter's box."
Gasparini's mother was a Jamaican track athlete who competed in London and his father is Italian. Neither one knew much about baseball when their son started playing, but Gasparini said he'd always been fascinated by American sports.
"We found out that there was a baseball team in my region, near my house, and we went there to try and I was really good, even though I was 10 and had never tried it," Gasparini said. "I started to play and fell in love with it."
Gasparini travels 300 miles from home to attend the Italian Baseball Academy and after a brief visit in Arizona over the next couple days, he will head back home to compete for Italy in the European Cup. After that's over, Gasparini will return to Arizona and play in the Instructional League.
Gasparini said baseball isn't real popular in Italy right now, but the team is competitive and the fan base is growing.
"I am one of the four players we have here in America," Gasparini said. "I think that there will be some more players to come out of Italy and play here in the USA."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less