DETROIT -- In a prelim to Monday's World Baseball Classic rollout, Australia native Justin Huber was named Most Valuable Player of Sunday's XM Satellite Futures Game at Comerica Park.
The 23-year-old Kansas City Royals prospect and former member of the Australian Olympic baseball team lamented the dropping of hardball from at least the 2012 Summer Games, but said he hopes next year's new tournament will fill the void.
Huber, whose pinch-hit, fifth-inning double knocked in two runs as the World Team defeated the U.S. Team, 4-0, added that he expects to play for his native country next March 3-20 in the 16-nation Major League Baseball-sponsored tourney that will include Major Leaguers for the first time in international play. Late last week, the International Olympic Committee voted to boot baseball and softball out of at least the 2012 Olympics.
"It's a big bummer that they're not going to have baseball in the 2012 Olympics," said Huber, who was traded to Kansas City last summer in the three-team deal that sent Kris Benson to the New York Mets. "That's going to be a big downer for baseball worldwide just because of the fact that a lot of baseball federations bank on government funding to help those teams get off the ground. The little nations are going to struggle because of it.
"Hopefully, this World Baseball Classic will really kick in and become a big thing for baseball. It's what baseball has to cling to now if it wants to remain a world sport, move forward and not backwards."
Huber, ironically, said the same thing about his own career.
After three Futures Game appearances, the catcher-turned-first baseman is hoping that his Major League future is now. He doesn't want to go backwards.
Huber blew out his left knee last year and missed Australia's run to a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. The Mets then traded him to Kansas City and the Royals moved him to first base.
He's been working with Hall of Famer George Brett to learn the moves around his new position and said, "I don't want to be a nuffy over there. I don't want to be a blimp over there."
"Nuffy," he said, is an Australian colloquialism for looking like "a dip."
"I want to actually be doing a good job and be reliable over there," Huber said. "That's my goal right now. I'm really happy that the Royals are giving me the opportunity to do that. I can't really ask for a better situation for myself."
The Royals thought enough of him to bring Huber up for two weeks earlier this month when Mike Sweeney was placed on the disabled list. He went 3-for-12 with three RBIs in five games. Then it was back to Double-A Wichita, which, of course, is ultimately not where he wants to be.
"It's a double-edged sword," he said. "It's an honor to come here and win an award like this. But I think about 70 percent of the guys who played with me in my first Futures Game (2002) have been up in the Major Leagues already. It's not something I hope to do again next year."
Barry M. Bloom is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.