Bubba Starling

"I went through hell and back," Storm Chasers outfielder Bubba Starling said after an injury-laden few years in the minor leagues. Starling received his first all-star selection in the pros and will compete in Wednesday's Triple-A All-Star game. "And here I am in July, healthy and having some fun with my teammates. That's all I can do, pretty much."

The tools have always been there. And now that Bubba Starling is fully healthy, they’re all on display.

The 26-year-old Omaha outfielder, a former first-round draft pick, is in the midst of his best professional season to date. Heading into the all-star break, he leads all full-season Kansas City minor leaguers with a .310 batting average.

Starling was selected to represent the Storm Chasers on the Pacific Coast League squad at the 32nd annual Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday at Southwest University Park in El Paso, Texas. It will be the first all-star experience at any level for the eighth-year pro, whose career has been marred by injuries since he chose pro baseball over a football scholarship from Nebraska in 2011.

“All the work I’ve put in the offseason the last few years, it turned around and I was getting hurt,” he said. “I can finally put it all together, go to El Paso and represent the Storm Chasers. It’s pretty sweet.”

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Starling arrived in Omaha just before the all-star break in 2016. But this is the first time since then that he’s reached the date of the Triple-A All-Star Game in fair health. He’s suffered four injuries to the oblique muscles along the side of the abdomen. He missed nearly all of last season.

“He’s grown as a player and as an individual in his time in Omaha,” said Martie Cordaro, the Storm Chasers’ president and general manager. “We’re really excited to see where his career is going to go. This is the first year he’s stayed healthy from day one through this point of the season. I think he’s proving that his athletic ability can translate into production on the field.”

Starling was removed from the Royals’ 40-man roster after playing only 20 games, 11 with the Chasers, last year because of injury. After re-signing with Kansas City as a free agent in December, he’s bounced back with a stellar effort in which he’s tied with infielder Erick Mejia for the team lead with 38 RBIs.

“Hopefully, I can keep it that way,” Starling said. “I’ll just keep showing up, playing hard and getting my work in every day. And staying healthy, that’s the main thing. Hopefully, results will happen from there.”

The Gardner, Kansas, native is coming off a recent stretch in which he posted five consecutive two-hit games. In one of those contests, played at Round Rock, Starling homered twice and drove in five runs. He’s recorded 25 multihit games, the most of any Omaha player. He’s hit well with runners on base. And he ranks fourth in the PCL in outfield assists.

Starling was the clear-cut choice among position players to represent the Chasers in El Paso this week.

“It means a lot for me,” he said. “I went through hell and back. And here I am in July, healthy and having some fun with my teammates. That’s all I can do, pretty much. I’ve just got to keep showing the front office, Royals and everyone, what I can do and keep being on the field.”

Starling’s name won’t appear on any Kansas City prospect list at this stage of his career. But his well-rounded skill set may eventually get him a shot in the majors.

The Royals would have to make room on their extended roster to call Starling up. They are expected to be active at the upcoming trade deadline, meaning some personnel shuffling should come.

If Starling’s day indeed arrives, he feels he’s put in the work to make the most of that opportunity.

“I’ve never been more ready or felt more ready for the big leagues,” he said. “I’ve waited eight or nine years. I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve been in the minors now. It’d mean a lot, not only for me but my family. They’ve been through the hard times and stuck by me. They’ve been there at my least best. They’ve been there for the best of the best. They’ve been through everything so it would be special.”

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