Riley King signed on the dotted line Sunday evening.
And again on the next one and the next one.
The Missoula Mavericks’ center fielder, who was picked in the 24th round of the MLB first-year player draft by the Kansas City Royals on Saturday, chose to forgo his sophomore season at Carroll College to join the Royals’ later this week. King, 19, signed a seven-year, minor-league contract with the Royals – a much more extensive proceeding than is glorified in the movies.
“It was a long process, a lot of things to sign and a lot of things to fill out,” said King, who inked the paperwork at his home under the observation of the Royals’ head northwest scout, Scott Ramsay. “It was about two hours. It hit me about halfway through when I was signing it: It’s a contract with the Kansas City Royals to play professional baseball.
“Like I said earlier, it was a dream come true, but I’ve got to stay humble and hungry and continue to work at this because I can’t be satisfied with just this.”
The Royals made King the 714th pick of the draft Saturday afternoon. At the same time, the Missoula Sentinel graduate was manning the outfield with the Class AA Mavs against the Helena Senators in a doubleheader at Lindborg-Cregg Field.
At that point, he hadn’t internalized that he was living in his last few moments as a Maverick. Then it hit him.
“When I was out there in that game, I knew I wasn’t going to play that second game and I realized I had three innings of Missoula American Legion baseball left,” King said. “Obviously a week ago I didn’t know what was going to happen. It’s incredible how quick my world turned, but it turned in a good way.”
Off the baseball diamond, King was also in the throes of a promising young collegiate basketball career. He’s only a month removed from the end of his first year at Carroll, where he won the Frontier Conference’s Freshman of the Year award as a guard.
Both the Royals and San Diego Padres, which also scouted King heavily this spring, had previously spoken with the Missoulian about splitting his time between baseball in the summer and college and college basketball during the rest of the year. But just two days before the draft, King said the Royals organization changed its mind. If the franchise were to invest in the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder, they wanted him fully committed to baseball.
King was forced to choose. Leaving his Saints was the hardest part of the decision to pursue professional baseball, he said.
“Carroll College treated me tremendously and that was one of the tougher things I had to do, to tell them after everything they’d done for me that I had to move on with baseball,” King said.
When King called first-year Carroll head men’s basketball coach Carson Cunningham Saturday with the news that he’d been drafted, he found nothing but support on the other end of the line.
“He just kept saying ‘Congratulations’ and ‘This is such a great opportunity, you need to do what you think is going to be best for you,’ ” King said of their initial conversation. “That was a pretty big relief when he said that the first time.”
After saying goodbye to his Mavs teammates Monday morning as they boarded a bus for Great Falls and a two-day swing with the Great Falls Chargers, King had the rest of the day to himself. It was his final afternoon in town as he was set to board a plane at 6 a.m. Tuesday to fly to Surprise, Ariz., the spring training home of the Royals. He and the other Kansas City signed draft picks will take part in an eight-day rookie camp before the players learn their minor-league fates.
Along with a “very attractive” signing bonus, King’s contract also offered to pay for any college education he chooses to seek while affiliated with the Royals and allowed him health insurance, he said. His monthly earnings this summer could range from $850 to about $1,300 per month based on standard seven-year minor league contracts.
Those figures depend on the rung of the minor-league ladder where he plays. As a late-round pick, King is most likely headed to either of the short-season rookie teams affiliated with the Royals, the long-season advanced rookie team or possibly the Class A squad should he continue to wow the scouts.
The Royals do have a short-season rookie club in the Pioneer League – the same league in which the Missoula Osprey compete. The Idaho Falls Chukars could be a potential landing spot for King after spring camp.
So that means there’s a chance Missoulians won’t have seen the last of King on a baseball field.
“Oh that would be a great feeling,” King said of the possibility of playing again in Missoula. “... This town, this town is so amazing and I’ve gotten so much support in the last few days. I couldn’t have asked for better people.”