For Pete's Sake

First-round pick Nick Pratto’s first homer came in Royals uniform ... when he was 7

Huntington Beach High School baseball player Nick Pratto got a hug from his girlfriend Chance Burden after the Royals drafted Pratto.
Huntington Beach High School baseball player Nick Pratto got a hug from his girlfriend Chance Burden after the Royals drafted Pratto. The Associated Press

On Monday afternoon, Nick Pratto likely will slip on a Royals jersey and answer questions at a news conference at Kauffman Stadium.

But it won’t be the first time Pratto, who was selected by Kansas City with the 14th overall pick in last Monday’s draft, has worn a Royals uniform. Eleven years earlier, he played for the Royals in his little league in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Obviously, the uniform wasn’t an exact match, but his dad, Jeff, chuckled at the memory in a phone interview on Sunday.

As the manager of his son’s little league baseball team, Jeff Pratto each season had the opportunity to choose the team’s uniforms from a list of Major League Baseball teams provided by the league.

When his son was 7 years old, Pratto took notice of a new team on the list — the Royals.

“I said, ‘That’s pretty cool. They’ve never had a Royals team. I’m going to take the Royals.’ They let you pick the uniforms as the manager,” Pratto said in a phone interview Sunday. “I liked it, so I picked it. I don’t think they’ve ever had a Royals team since. I think they will now though.”

Yeah, that’s likely going to happen.

Jeff Pratto said his wife Laura and Nick are flying into Kansas City on Sunday and Nick will have a physical on Monday. After that, Nick’s contract is expected to be signed and the family will be at Kauffman Stadium for Monday’s Royals-Red Sox game.

Although nothing has been announced, it’s customary for the Royals’ first-round draft pick to meet the media when the signing is official, so that probably will happen Monday.

Jeff Pratto has always coached his son’s teams, but that will end when Nick heads to Surprise, Ariz., and Jeff goes back to California. But Jeff believes Nick’s work ethic will suit him well in the minor leagues.

“He’s always been a really hard worker,” Jeff Pratto said. “I’ve told a lot of people this: when I say not once, I mean not once have I ever had to ask him to get his shoes on, get ready for practice, let’s go hit. I can count many a time I’ve been home sleeping and going to bed and he’ll say let’s go hit. So we go down to our cage, we have a dear friend who runs Total Baseball in Huntington Beach, he lets us use his cage anytime, and we’ll go in there and hit.

“He’s just a hard worker. He loves to hit. That’s what he loves to do. And he likes to work at things. And his fielding as well.”

Jeff Pratto has fond memories of the Royals, even though they were the bullies of the American League West back in the 1970s.

“I’m 52, almost 53, so I go back to, needless to say, George Brett, but back to Frank White, Amos Otis, Cookie Rojas, Paul Splittorff, all those guys,” Jeff Pratto said. “I’ve got all their cards. I used to watch them beat up on the Angels all the time.”

Jeff Pratto also happily recalls Nick in a Royals uniform, including one moment that came before his well-publicized hit that won the Little League World Series.

“He hit his first-ever over-the-fence homer in a Royals uni,” Jeff Pratto said. “There’s more coming.”

The Royals and their fans are counting on it.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff