KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nick Pratto looked quite comfortable slipping into a crisp, white Royals jersey Monday afternoon.
Perhaps because it wasn’t the first time.
Kansas City’s first-round draft pick, who agreed to a contract that included a $3.45 million signing bonus, once played for a Little League team coached by his dad with the same nickname. Pratto even belted his first home run wearing a Royals jersey, perhaps a harbinger of good things to come.
"I still remember it," the high school first baseman said during an introductory news conference at Kauffman Stadium. "The funny thing is the pitch was above my eyes. I just kind of waved at it."
His eye improved considerably over the next decade, to the point where Pratto was widely considered the most polished prep hitter in last week’s amateur draft. Throw in some slick fielding and the Royals were comfortable taking him out of Huntington Beach, California, with the 14th overall pick, which had a slot value of $3,727,600.
Another reason for the team’s confidence in Pratto? Some hometown ties.
Kansas City scout Rich Amaral has been watching Pratto ever since the youngster pulled on that first Royals jersey. His own kids played Little League ball and went to camps with him, and Amaral kept a close eye on the budding talent when Pratto began playing at more elite levels.
That included leading a collection of California players to the Little League World Series in 2011, when Pratto hit the winning single in the title game against Japan.
"I’ve seen him a long time," Amaral said. "It’s hard to get to know a player in a year or whatever, so I’ve seen him long enough to where I know what he’s about. He loves baseball. Has a passion for the game. It’s easy for him. I have no worries about his makeup."
The 18-year-old Pratto, who hit .318 with seven homers and 19 RBIs during his senior season, was only the third prep first baseman taken within the first 15 picks in the past seven years.
Pratto flew to Kansas City with his family to sign his deal before the Royals opened a series against the Boston Red Sox. He toured Kauffman Stadium, where he hopes to play in the future, and will head to the Arizona rookie league Tuesday morning to begin his professional career.