Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DAHOF Top 100 -- #20 Royce Huffman

Of the 100 ballplayers that made my Top 100 list, only one has never played a game in the major leagues. I've included him here because of all the ballplayers I have met and talked to over the years... no one has been as genuine or sincere about their love of the game than Royce Huffman.

Royce Huffman is a winner. He is not a marginal athlete, just looking to hold on. He teamed with Dodgers 1B James Loney to win the Texas 5A Baseball state championship at national high school power Fort Bend Elkins in 1995. He was a two sport star at Texas Christian University (TCU). He had an outstanding football career with the Frogs, selected as an All-WAC punter, punt returner, and kick returner. He also competed on the TCU baseball team where he was a three-time All-American before being drafted by the Houston Astros in 1999. Royce left TCU as the career leader in at-bats (793), hits (317), RBIs (225), doubles (59), homeruns (44), total bases (528), and walks (158).

I first met Royce Huffman in the late summer of 2000. He earned a late season promotion up to "AA" Round Rock and spent the last few weeks watching older and more experienced Astros prospects capture the Texas League Championship. The next two summers in Round Rock, where played third (2001) and first base (2002) while delivering what would become his typical superior offensive production. By 2003 (age 26) he had earned a promotion to the Astros "AAA" team in New Orleans, starting his long palteau only one step away from his dream.

He logged almost 900 games at the AAA level, stopping at New Orleans, Portland, Charlotte, Oklahoma City, and again in Round Rock. Through out it all, Royce kept hitting (career OPS of .800) and kept hoping he'd finally get rewarded with a callup to the major leagues. He came close to being called up by the Astros during the 2004 and 2006 seasons. In'04, he was a Pacific Coast League All-Star, leading the league in games and ranking second in hits. But the Astros needed a middle infielder, and he was a corner infielder. In '06 the Astros reportedly considered calling him up, but Royce broke his left hand six days after the All-Star break, missing another chance.

From a 2009 story:
Obviously I love playing the game. Obviously I'd like to make it to the major leagues, but I just love the game. I love coming out here with the guys and having a good time. Playing to have fun and playing for my teammates, I just think the bigger things will fall into place.

Having no big league time,it's just one of those things where I don't want to say I'm frustrated because all I can do is control what I'm doing on the field. A lot has to do with being in the right place at the right time and having luck on your side.

Unfortunately, it hasn't gone that way for me in my career. But would I do anything different? No, not a chance. The people I've met and the people I've played with, those are the reasons why I keep playing.

I have no idea what's going to happen, I'll cross that bridge when I get there. As long as I've got a uniform on, there's still a chance.
It never happened. At the end of the 2009 season, after 11 seasons of pro baseball and a seven straight years in Triple-A, Royce Huffman packed up his bat and glove and stepped into the next stage of his life. He may not have ever logged a plate appearance in the big leagues, but I have never met a better professional baseball man in my life.


Post a Comment