One of the top dual-sport athletes in the nation, Starling is hitting .522 with four homers in baseball. As a quarterback, he rushed for 2,471 yards and 31 touchdowns. He has committed to Nebraska, but is likely a top-10 pick in next month's MLB draft.Read More Below
Mention the name Bubba Starling around Kansas City and locals will rave about the 18-year-old phenom. They'll tell of his ability to smack baseballs more than 500 feet, punishing high school pitchers as if they were throwing soft toss. They'll bring up his stint as an all-state quarterback, an underrated passer who bulldozes defenders like a Mack truck. They'll gush of his growing legend, that of a multi-sport prodigy destined for national stardom.
"I'm kind of famous around here," said Starling. "Just 'cause it's so small here in Kansas."
Soon Starling will be faced with a life-changing decision. By Aug. 15, the negotiation deadline for college-eligible MLB draftees, Starling must choose whether to begin his career as a top-tier baseball prospect or a four-star quarterback recruit at the University of Nebraska.
Starling is a 6-foot-5, 190-pound beast blessed with wiry strength and tremendous athleticism. He's dominated seemingly every sport since grade school, developing into a regional celebrity. At Gardner Edgerton High, he's a superstar in baseball, football and basketball.
Take baseball, for instance. Starling is Baseball the nation's top-rated high school prospect, a do-it-all outfielder and a righthanded pitcher who can touch 94 on the radar gun. He's been likened to Carl Crawford and Josh Hamilton, a five-tool threat equally proficient hitting for power and average. Through nine games, he's batting .522 with four home runs, 10 RBIs and seven stolen bases.
"It's fun when I get up there, whether it's hitting base hits or hitting home runs," he said. "When you're having fun and learning, you're usually pretty successful."
He's been a standout on the football field as well, leading the Trailblazers to an 11-1 record and the state 5A semifinals as a senior. He was a defensive coordinator's nightmare, rushing for 2,471 yards and 31 touchdowns and throwing for 812 yards and eight scores.
That type of production attracted major college attention, and Starling received a bevy of scholarship offers. He eventually narrowed his options to Nebraska and Notre Dame -- the only programs that allowed him to play both sports -- and selected the Cornhuskers for their coaching staff, proximity to home and, above all, their rabid fan base.
"Getting to play in front of all those people would just be awesome," he said. "Some of the fans up there, they're nuts."
That's recently proved troublesome, however, as the date of Starling's highly anticipated decision inches nearer. Since his commitment last June, he's been beleaguered with questions about his future, about whether he'll test his potential on the baseball diamond or the gridiron. Though pressured to commit, he's remained tight-lipped, declining to divulge his leanings.
Until now. In spite of his status as a baseball wunderkind, he plans to suit up in Nebraska scarlet and cream come fall.
"My next step is college," he said. "Even if it's only for three or four years, I'll hopefully get an education and see what happens after that."
Of course, that could change once he's presented with a multi-million dollar contract, something that will likely materialize following the amateur draft on June 6. But it's certainly a telling sentiment. Starling seems to be one of the rare young talents willing to delay financial gratification.
Until then, he'll enjoy his waning days as a high school student. He's defied the odds in an era of specialization, excelling in three separate sports (He was also an All-State small forward in 2011). He's also carved out a reputation for himself: He's the consummate All-America.
Despite the hype, he wants to people to know he's just a typical, down-to-earth teen.
"I don't know if you'd say teddy bear, but I'm just a nice kid," he said. "Some people are just intimidated because I play three sports and I'm pretty good at them."