Royals, Mets Fall Leaguers reveling in World Series glow

Royals, Mets Fall Leaguers reveling in World Series glow

SCOTTSDALE -- Being a prospect within an organization that's reached the World Series has its benefits, especially in the Arizona Fall League.

New York Mets first base prospect Dominic Smith has taken full advantage of the success his big league club has had.

"There's a little friendly rivalry going on," said Smith, who currently plays for the AFL's Salt River Rafters. "A little smack talk."

While Smith doesn't know any of the Kansas City Royals prospects playing in the Fall League, it hasn't stopped him from giving any well-natured prodding to those on other teams. The Blue Jays organization also feeds into the Rafters, and during the ALCS between the Royals and Blue Jays, Smith and the other Mets prospects in Arizona took up rooting interests with the Jays' prospects here.

Outfielder Bubba Starling, the Royals' first-round pick in 2011, hasn't partaken in much trash talk himself, but he has reveled in the experience of having his hometown team play for championships in back-to-back years. And this season, he's able to share it with his fellow prospects on the Surprise Saguaros.

Starling and many of the other Royals hopefuls share a house during Fall League play and they enjoy watching from the comfort of their own home. Smith prefers going out to catch the games. His favorite spot? A golf and entertainment complex less than two miles from his home ballpark. He hasn't missed a playoff game yet -- even non-Mets affairs.

"We just root 'em on," Smith said. "That's family. Those are our brothers up there."

Players are understandably prideful to be a part of a World Series organization, but it's even more personal for Starling, who grew up in Kansas City as a Royals fan. Before last season, he had never seen his team make the playoffs, let alone the Fall Classic.

"I've got a lot of people back home who want to see me play well and hopefully get up there soon," Starling said. "It's a process."

Four years removed from being the No. 5 overall pick straight out of high school, the 23-year-old has seen ups and downs in his career thus far. But both Starling and Smith have received help from those currently in the World Series.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas took Starling under his wing while the former Nebraska quarterback recruit was struggling in Major League camp during Spring Training earlier this year.

"I started out Spring Training not so hot," Starling said. "I sat down with him and had a long talk and (Moustakas said), basically, 'Just slow everything down. Don't try to conquer the game, let it come to you.' It helped me out quite a bit. I learned a lot from him and ended up having a decent season."

Smith spent the season at high-A St. Lucie, where Michael Conforto started the year before skyrocketing through the system en route to becoming a World Series starter for the Mets. While Conforto was closer to a peer than a mentor for Smith, the 20-year-old first baseman received guidance from the many other Mets players who spent time in St. Lucie on rehab assignments.

"All these guys who rehabbed with us really helped not only me but the team," Smith said after offering up a laundry list of names that included Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Michael Cuddyer and Travis d'Arnaud.

Of the 50 players on World Series rosters, 29 of them played in the AFL. Soon, the Royals and Mets alike will be looking to those currently in Arizona to help sustain the success of today.

Between interacting with those who have already reached the Majors and seeing the success those players are having now, it only adds to the motivation for prospects in the Fall League.

"Not only me, but the guys in the organization here," Starling said. "Being able to see them on TV and see what they're doing kind of motivates us. It gets us excited to work harder and hopefully get up there and help them out sometime soon."

Added Smith: "When our big league team plays well, it tends to help our organization as a whole play well. They make it easy to go out and play hard every day."

Evan Webeck is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.