Click photo to enlarge
The Midland (Ohio) Redskins' Eric Hosmer, right, leads his team around the bases Friday night during the Connie Mack World Series opening ceremonies at Ricketts Park.
FARMINGTON — Eric Hosmer appeared to craft a storybook ending to his Connie Mack baseball career at the 2007 World Series.

Moments before he was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, Hosmer collected the final out of the Midland (Ohio) Redskins' 15-4 championship game win over the East Cobb (Ga.) Yankees. The big first baseman corralled a routine grounder and, with an emphatic fist pump, trotted to the bag to secure the fabled Redskins' 10th national title.

Though Hosmer still had another year of Connie Mack eligibility, he was already a big-time professional prospect. An encore performance in 2008 seemed improbable.

And yet, here he is this week, back in Farmington trying to pilot Midland to another crown.

"When Eric left last year, he said, I'll see you next year,' and I believed him," Redskins manager Joe Hayden said Saturday morning during his team's workout at the Farmington Sports Complex, a cigar dangling from his left hand. "Hos isn't driven by what drives a lot of young guys. Sure, he wants to make a lot of money, he wants to be a success, but he remembers his roots."

Hosmer simply couldn't bail on a club and a coaching staff that had done so much for him.

"For all that Papa Joe' has done for me, I felt like it wouldn't be fair to him if I didn't come back," he explained. "The experience out here ... I'd be stupid to say no to this."

The money beckoned in mid-June when the Kansas City Royals made the Miami-area standout the third overall pick of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft.


He has until Aug. 15 to agree to a contract with the Royals. If an agreement isn't reached, Hosmer will head to Arizona State University to play for the Sun Devils — an option he hasn't dismissed, even if it means temporarily passing up millions of dollars.

"He's sitting on basically a winning lottery ticket," said Redskins assistant coach Brian Hiler, who has welcomed Hosmer into his Cincinnati home each of the past two summers.

Like Hayden, Hiler wasn't surprised the 6-foot-5, 210-pound slugger returned to the Redskins.

"He told me back in October, Coach, I'll be back,'" Hiler recalled. "He said, The money will always be there, but I have a chance to go to Farmington for three years and that's what I want to do.'"

No kidding.

At the East Central Regional, Hosmer, who played in the 2006 World Series with the Florida Bombers, was a one-man wrecking crew. He strapped Midland to his back and clubbed four homers in five games — the Redskins played from behind in three of those contests. He tallied 16 hits and 13 RBIs while reaching base at a ridiculous .850 clip.

"It was get on my back, guys, and let's go,'" said Hiler, who has been with Midland since 1998.

As much as he likes talking about Hosmer's offensive brilliance, Hiler is just as apt to tout his versatility, noting the "gold glove-caliber" defense he provides from two positions. Many projections have Hosmer starting off as an outfielder in the pros.

He has played both first base and right field for Midland, "So I feel pretty comfortable with either position," said Hosmer, who also has touched 95 on the radar gun as a pitcher.

Hayden has seen no shortage of talent pass through his program. And he's quick to include Hosmer in a list of superstars that includes Ken Griffey Jr., a member of the 600-home run club and a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and Barry Larkin, who also should make it to Cooperstown.

"Eric Hosmer, in my opinion, is potentially every bit as good as any ballplayer we've ever had," Hayden said, noting Hosmer is much like Larkin was in that both players are remarkably even-keeled. "He's the same every day — good day, bad day, win or lose, Eric Hosmer is Eric Hosmer."

Which, according to both Hayden and Hiler, encompasses much more than what's seen on the diamond. When Hiler's wife miscarried with the couple's second child in March, Hosmer called during his lunch break at American Heritage High School in Miami to express his sympathies.

"In my opinion, he's a better person off the field than he is on the field," Hayden said.

But on the field, he sure is fun to watch. 

Hosmer admits his contract negotiations with Kansas City are likely to come down to the final hour.

According to an ESPN report preceding the June draft, Hosmer's advisor is Scott Boras, whose reputation as an agent has been built on earning full value for his clients.

For now, the money can wait. The Redskins bounced back from Friday's opening-night loss to East Cobb with a win over Llaneros 21 (Puerto Rico) on Sunday, and Hosmer isn't ready to see his final World Series appearance come to a halt just yet.

Thus, he's not looking ahead to the Aug. 15 deadline.

"It's coming down to the last day, but I'm trying to keep my mind off that," Hosmer concluded. "I feel it wouldn't be fair to these guys if I'm thinking about that in Farmington. I'm just going to focus here, and after this week's done, we'll sit down and see what happens."

Breakout Box

Here's what ESPN's Keith Law had to say about Hosmer during the draft:

"Hosmer has the most raw power of anyone in the first round, but also has a very refined approach at the plate. He has very quick hands and good plate coverage. He has a hole in his swing middle-in, but if pitchers try to pitch him inside, they'd better get it all the way inside. He can hit the ball out to left or left-center. I like his chances potentially to move to right field. He's a good athlete. He has plenty of arm to play right field. He gives the Royals a lot of flexibility."