Mike Moustakas fields a grounder against the Arizona Diamondbacks in May. (John Sleezer / MCT )
It would've been nice if Mike Moustakas, at 23, was a hometown All-Star this season.
The Kansas City Royals third baseman and was passed over by American League All-Star Manager Ron Washington in favor of Royals first baseman and designated hitter Billy Butler.
Asked whether he deserved to be an All-Star, Moustakas responded as those who know him best would expect him to.
"I don't think so," he said last week. "I just looked at Miguel Cabrera's numbers and he's hitting .300 with 40 home runs and 80 RBI already. It's just an honor to have my name in consideration with guys like Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Beltre."
Actually, Cabrera was batting .327 with 18 home runs and 70 runs batted in through Friday, but Moustakas was trying to make a point. And Moustakas enjoys having something to work for, anyway.
"Play hard, work hard, that's how the city of Kansas City is," Moustakas said.
That's the attribute Moustakas honed growing up in the San Fernando Valley, playing at Chatsworth High and becoming so skilled in the game he played throughout his youth that he was the second player selected in the 2007 amateur draft.
"It comes from my family, my dad," Moustakas said of his father, Mike, a retired attorney. "If you're not out working hard, someone's working harder. From when I first heard it, I ran with it."
The attitude fueled Moustakas through high school, where he impressed other prep standouts by trying to learn catching — a position he had little experience playing — in the Area Code Games.
No ego. No entitlement. Just attention to fundamentals.
"To me, baseball's a game I've always played as hard as I can," Moustakas said. "It's been my life since day one. I knew as a kid that I loved it, because I loved playing with my friends. It could be playing pepper or pickle, whatever. Now I'm fortunate to have baseball as my job."
He pushed through the minor leagues and was summoned to Kansas City for the last 89 games of the 2011 season, batting .263 with five home runs and 30 runs batted in.
Third base was clearly his as spring training began this year, and the left-handed hitter used the time not as a celebratory countdown to his opening-night start with the Royals at Angel Stadium, but rather the proving ground it was intended.
"I was struggling to find my stroke last season when I was up here, and there's always room for improvement in baseball, you always want to work on your defense," Moustakas said. "I work to make strides every year, I've always been blessed with great coaching, and I've always been able to figure things out."
Through the first half, Moustakas has trimmed his errors by three in as many chances as last season, and a Monday grand slam pushed his offensive contributions to .269 with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs.
"I just wanted to do whatever I can to just help us win every day," Moustakas said this week.
"He's young and talented," Manager Ned Yost said. "You know he's going to have ups and downs. Sometimes he can be too hard on himself. Consistency is a process when you're facing the best players in the world.
"But he has tremendous energy and makeup, and he's a kid who fits right in with this clubhouse. That's the great thing about these kids — they improve in different aspects every single day."
In other words, save Moustakas a spot on the 2013 All-Star team at Citi Field in New York.