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Published: 9/23/2006

Royals' Maier right at home vs. Tigers

BY GREG ECHLIN
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

KANSAS CITY - Perhaps it's fitting that former University of Toledo standout Mitch Maier got the call to the big leagues for the first time with his hometown team, the Detroit Tigers, in for the weekend.

Maier, a native of Novi (Mich.), arrived at the Kansas City Royals clubhouse prior to their Wednesday night game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Established as an everyday center fielder with the Double A Wichita Wranglers in the Texas League, Maier had a notion his number would be called that night when the Royals regular center fielder, David DeJesus, was forced out of the game with a right thumb injury. But instead Joey Gathright replaced DeJesus in the outfield.

"I knew there was a chance, but that was totally fine since that was my first day up here and it was still early in the game," said Maier, the 30th overall pick as a catcher in the 2003 draft.

His father, John, was in the stands that night and was joined by his mother, Maggie, for this weekend's series against the playoff-hungry Tigers.

Maier, 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, expects to be a lot busier visiting with friends next weekend when the Royals conclude their season at Detroit's Comerica Park.

"The word has spread, so I've gotten calls from guys I haven't talk to since I was in college. I'm sure there are going to be more," said Maier before last night's series opener against the Tigers.

A year after combining for 47 doubles between Class A High Desert and Wichita, ranking him second in all of the minor leagues, Maier finished with solid numbers at the plate this season with the Wranglers. His 35 doubles were second on the team to Texas League Player of the Year Alex Gordon who had 39. Maier drove in 92, also second on the team to Gordon's 101.

"He's [Gordon's\\ phenomenal. He's going to be in the [major] league a long time and do a lot of great things," said Maier, who hit .448 in his junior season with the Rockets before he was drafted.

In three seasons with the Rockets, Maier set school records in average (.414), hits (238), doubles (42), RBI (147) and total bases (370).

Maier concluded his second full season in the Royals organization as an outfielder and was told upon his arrival in Kansas City to be ready to play any of the three outfield positions.

It took a couple years to get settled at one defensive spot. Before the Royals' acquisition of their current third baseman Mark Teahen, the parent club was looking for an eventual successor to Joe Randa, so Maier was first tried at third.

"I grew up catching, so that was something I wanted to do. I gave it a shot in my first short season ['03 in the Arizona rookie league].

"I hit fine and I caught fine, but it would have taken longer for my glove to catch up to be a big league catcher," said Maier.

When asked about the timetable he set for himself to reach the big leagues after his move from behind the plate, Maier said three years is "about right."



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