The 100 Greatest Royals of All-Time - #92 Jeremy Affeldt

The 92nd Greatest Royal of All-Time is Jeremy Affeldt

I've got blisters on my fingers!

Affeldt is a 22-year-old left-handed pitcher whom almost nobody knows about. He grew up in a place in Washington bizarrely called Medical Lake, he's got streaked hair and a goatee, and he pretty much never gets listed among the Royals' top prospects. Maybe that's because he has a losing record in the minor leagues and a doesn't-exactly-wow-you 4.09 lifetime minor-league ERA.

He kicked at the dirt, wound, and threw a fastball.

"Whoa," one scout said.

"What was that?" asked another.

They looked at the radar gun. It read 92. In the wind, nobody had thrown harder than 90 all day. A few people started buzzing. Royals general manager Allard Baird leaned forward to get a better look.

Then, Affeldt unleashed a curveball. It started at the batter's belt. If swooped down into the dirt. The batter swung about 2 feet over it.

"Whoa," one scout said.

"What was that?" asked another.

And now, there was an electricity coursing through the scout section. A few more radar guns appeared. A few notebooks came out. Affeldt threw a 93-mph fastball that struck out one batter. He blew a 94-mph fastball by another batter. There were murmurs and whispers. Then scouts and baseball people started offering secret signals to each other.

"I've never seen him throw 94 before," Baird whispered. You could sense this giddiness in his voice, and Baird is not the kind to get giddy. Baird is the kind of guy who, if he saw David conk Goliath with a rock, would write up a scouting report that read "Good arm. Above average fastball. A bit wild. Does he have a second pitch?"

And yet Baird was definitely getting pretty worked up. This is what baseball people live for. Moments like this. Affeldt uncorked another fighter-pilot curveball that dived under the bat - his fourth strikeout in five batters, and by now the scout section was pretty much pandemonium.

"How about that?" longtime Royals scouting guru Art Stewart was saying, and assistant general manager Muzzy Jackson was feverishly scribbling down something, and scouts from other teams were on the phone, and then Affeldt struck out his fifth guy, on a big fastball, another big fastball and a curveball that dropped into the strike zone.....

"You won't see a lefty pitch better all year," Baird said happily. "I mean, there's no telling how he will pitch next time. But today, he was terrific. A 94-mph fastball. That curve. And he was throwing strikes. You just can't pitch much better than that."....

"Hey, it's just the first week of spring training," Baird says. "We'll see what Jeremy does the next time."

Joe Posnanski, Kansas City Star, March 4, 2002

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