The first half of Bubba Starling's great summer debate has been answered: As expected, the coveted, multi-sport star was snapped up by the Kansas City Royals on Monday with the fifth overall pick of the MLB draft. Now comes the hard part: Does he take the money from the hometown team and focus on a career as one of the most promising young prospects in baseball, or does he take a little more time to enjoy baseball and football at Nebraska?
For most people, that wouldn't be much of a question. As a high draft pick with options, Starling could likely command a signing bonus from the Royals in the neighborhood of $7 million over several years, and will likely ask for even more. Beyond the money, the Royals also offer him a chance to play in his hometown, for his favorite team, with which he already has a few compelling connections. The money, the location and the long-term forecasts for Starling's future all point to baseball.
But Starling is also one of the most hyped quarterbacks of the incoming 2011 recruiting class, and is certainly athletic enough to crack the Cornhuskers' depth chart at another position this fall if he's not ready to push the incumbent, Taylor Martinez, who proved himself last year as a promising athlete in his own right. Starling also promised last month that he plans to be in Lincoln on July 10, the day before the start of Nebraska's second summer session, not long after his father told the Lincoln Journal-Star his son is "going to Nebraska to play football." If he does decide to turn down the money for at least another year on the gridiron, he wouldn't be the first.
He might be the first, however, to turn down quite so much money if he does. Show me an 18-year-old staring at millions to follow his "dream scenario" with the hometown club, and I'll show you a guy who's beginning to think football sounds like a nice "Plan B" a few years down the road. It's only a guess, but if Starling's still on track to play football this fall as the calendar approaches the Aug. 15 deadline for signing with K.C., it's probably only because he's trying to sweeten the deal a bit before he makes it official.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.