If Brad Pounders had his way, the best name in the Royals’ clubhouse would have been slightly different. If not for one objection, one of the best names in baseball might have been even better.
The story goes back 25 years, and it is family lore by now. And with Royals reliever Brooks Pounders, well, it’s always best to start with the name.
For Brad Pounders, the idea was to give his son a name suitable for baseball, a tribute to his favorite game in the world, and as he pondered the decision, he kept coming back to one:
Brooks Robinson Pounders.
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It sounded perfect. Brad Pounders had grown up idolizing the Hall of Fame third baseman of the Baltimore Orioles. He, himself, had played a corner infield position in the minors during the mid 1980s.
Brooks Robinson Pounders. Rolled right off the tongue. And then his wife, Mary, stepped in.
“She put the kibosh on that one,” says Brooks, now 25.
Perhaps Brad Pounders did not get the name he sought. But the baseball part of things did work out. On Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium, Brad watched his son earn his first major-league victory in the Royals’ 4-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Brad Pounders choked back tears as he took in the scene, which represented something more than a proud father. His minor-league career stalled at Triple-A, Brooks said, his career done in by a balky back. The family, he said, had been waiting for a moment like Thursday night.
“He’s gone through so much in the game and never getting to the big leagues,” Brooks said of his father. “But finally seeing me get a chance after a long road is something special for him.”
Thursday represented something more for Brooks Pounders, too, of course. After eight seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut on Tuesday in Toronto, allowing a run in two innings. A second-round pick in 2009, Pounders’ career has featured an unexpected trade, the pain of Tommy John surgery and another injury that wiped out half of his 2015 season. His breakthrough came earlier this week, after closer Wade Davis went on the disabled list with a forearm strain.
“I always knew what I could do in baseball,” Pounders said.
A native of Temecula, Calif., Pounders committed to play baseball at the University of Southern California out of high school. But he turned down the offer after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second round of the 2009 draft. More than two years later, Pounders was dealt to the Royals in a December 2011 trade that shipped infielder Yamaico Navarro to the Pirates’ organization. At the time, Pounders said, the trade stung.
“It was one of those things where it’s hard to see that it was a good thing,” Pounders said. “You’re kind of stuck like: ‘Pittsburgh gave up on me so quick.’ But ultimately, the Royals wanted you more. So it was kind of hard to cope with at first, but the transition was easy.”
Pounders missed most of the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He missed half of last season after injuring his latissimus dorsi muscle during spring training. He opened the 2016 season at Class AAA Omaha, posting a 2.80 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.
“Obviously, being here is unbelievable,” Pounders said. “The success they had last year, and getting the chance to be a part of it this year is something I’ll cherish for a long time.”