Some come to spring training with a position locked up, others in a stiff competition for a job, and many with little more than a hope. Pitcher Malcom Culver is among the latter.
“My dream is to pitch in front of the fountains at Kauffman Stadium,” Culver said.
It’s a dream long in the making. Culver was the Royals’ eighth-round pick in the 2008 draft out of Palmdale High in California. Culver turned down a football scholarship at San Diego State, where he also would have played baseball, and came to the Royals with pitching and position playing in his background.
Asked by the organization for his preference, Culver’s response was “whatever gets me to the big leagues faster.”
That meant third base. Three years later and no closer to the big leagues, Culver was back on the mound, working out of the bullpen and up through the organization. He spent the entire 2016 season in Class AAA Omaha, where he a logged a 3.86 ERA in 67 2/3 innings.
“Malcom Culver is a grinder, a guy who was never a No. 1 prospect,” said Mike Sweeney, the former Royals star and the team’s special assistant to baseball operations. “He’s had setbacks. He’s had years where he’s underperformed, but now he’s in the big-league camp and he’s sitting a couple of lockers down from (Kelvin) Herrera, (Jason) Hammel and (Travis) Wood. … He’s the type of guy you root for, for sure.”
Sweeney has a special interest in Culver. In 2015, Culver was chosen as the winner of the Mike Sweeney Award for his efforts on and off the field. Culver had been active in regional charities.
“Just giving back to the community,” Culver said. “And making sure they know we care about them.”
Culver isn’t sure where he’ll land this season. Eventually he wants to attend college — his Royals contract provides post-baseball career tuition money — and perhaps one day work in a front office.
But the primary objective is to wear a Royals uniform during the season. He has a fan in Sweeney.
“Guys come into the locker room and think this team should be lucky I’m here,” Sweeney said. “Then there are guys like Malcom Culver that walk in that locker room and say, ‘Man, I’m lucky to be here.’
“A lot of us are waiting for that debut, when he’s pitching in front of those fountains, there’s going to be a lot of people happy for Malcom Culver.”