A year ago at this time, Missoula's Riley King was getting ready to battle in the state tournament with his Missoula Mavericks. Now just one summer later King is in the Kansas City Royals organization playing Minor League Baseball in front of thousands of fans.
"Obviously in terms of playing in front of crowds it's a little different,” says King of the atmosphere at the ballpark. “You've got kids asking for autographs every time you're coming out there and giving foul balls to the fans and little things like that. It's definitely a big change but it's pretty awesome. It's something that you dream of your whole life and then it starts to become a reality so it's pretty crazy."
Of course it's not just the stadiums that are upgraded at this level of baseball, the pitching is pretty good too.
"Every day you're facing somebody that got drafted,” explains King. “They're very talented when it comes to pitching. First off obviously the velocity here you consistently see 90 to 95. And obviously the guys have great second and third pitches too with curveballs and change-ups and sliders.”
King is currently hitting .197 in the Arizona League. He has 7 RBI’s to go with a .274 on base percentage. He says he obviously want to get his numbers up, but is also listening to his coaches when they tell him this experience is a process.
“I was struggling a little bit at first and ended up changing some things with my swing about two weeks ago and I’ve been feeling a lot more comfortable with that and starting to get use to the velocity of pitches here."
The Missoula Sentinel graduate admits he does miss family and friends back in Montana. And he wishes the very best for the Carroll Fighting Saints basketball program where he was the freshman of the year in the Frontier Conference, but for now his undivided attention is on professional baseball.
"Like I've said earlier I enjoyed Carroll a lot, I loved Carroll. But this is something I couldn't pass up on and I'm loving it right now so it's definitely going to be weird when school comes around here in August and I’m just finishing up the season and getting ready to head back down for fall ball so that's going to be a little weird but I'm loving it right now and I know how lucky I am to get this opportunity so I'm just working hard every day to make the most of it."