Ex-Manalapan star DeJesus makes major league debut

Called up by
Kansas City Royals

By tim morris
Staff Writer

Ex-Manalapan star DeJesus
makes major league debut
Called up by
Kansas City Royals
By tim morris
Staff Writer

After being named the Kansas City Royals’ 2002 Minor League Player of the Year, ex-Manalapan High School star David DeJesus was on the fast track to the major leagues.

DeJesus, who also starred for Rutgers University, fulfilled that promise last week, when he made his major league debut. DeJesus, an outfielder, made his first appearance in a Royals uniform on Sept. 2 when he replaced Carlos Beltran in center field.

It was an unnoticed debut, at first. It was not announced on the public address system or in the press box, and his name was even omitted from the box score. But DeJesus knew.

"I called my girlfriend and told her I got in the game," he said. "She works for WFAN and they (co-workers) told her I didn’t play, that my name was not found anywhere. She said, ‘I’m sure David’s not lying about this.’ The next time I get in, I’m going to wave."

Later in the week, the Manalapan product got his name into the box score as a pinch hitter, striking out in his first-ever plate appearance.

DeJesus’ professional baseball career was marred by injury at first. He signed out of Rutgers with the Royals, who picked him in the fourth round of the June Free Agent Draft, in the summer of 2000, but did not play until 2002 due to elbow and shoulder injuries. He played with Wilmington in Single A and made the Carolina League All-Star team, before moving up to the Royals’ Double A team in Wichita for the remainder of the 2002 season.

DeJesus, who bats and throws lefty, then played fall ball for the Royals in the Arizona Fall League in Scottsdale, where he really captured Kansas City’s attention.

"We were pleased to see some players really step forward in the Arizona Fall League," Royals Arizona League manager Allard Baird said.

DeJesus was among that group of play­ers Baird said had stepped forward. His Arizona League performance, coupled by his play in Wilmington and Wichita, helped the 23-year-old DeJesus get named the club’s Minor League Player of the Year.

DeJesus picked up where he left off in 2003, hitting the cover off the ball first in Wichita and then with Royal’s Triple A affiliate, Omaha of the Pacific Coast League. From Single A up to Triple A, DeJesus batted .326, .441 and .495.

The Royals brought DeJesus up at a time when Kansas City is in the middle of a pennant chase. The Royals ended last weekend just three games behind the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League Central Division. DeJesus will get to expe­rience the excitement of a championship race first hand.

Always a good contact hitter from his days in Manalapan, DeJesus said the Roy­als are looking to him as someone who can get on base and be a catalyst.

"They want me to keep my swing short and show that I can have a good on-base percentage," DeJesus said after playing fall ball. "I’ve got pretty good speed. If I can hit line drives and ground balls, and draw some walks — that’s what the Royals’ or­ganization is looking for."

Fortunately, that is what DeJesus does best.