For many kids, their dream was to grow up and play a professional sport. It takes guts, hard work, and determination to make it. Growing up in a small town doesn’t help much, especially one like Hagerstown, Maryland.
However, Hagerstown has been a town built around its rich history. Part of that history includes baseball. For 34 seasons, Hagerstown has been the home of the Hagerstown Suns, a minor league team in the Washington Nationals organization.
The Suns have had many players in the MLB including Orioles legend, Jim Palmer, Giants legend, Willie Mays, and most recently, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain, Carlos Gomez and Derek Norris. One of the most recent players to make it from the area is the late Nick Adenhart.
But now, Hagerstown has another promising prospect on the fast track to the big leagues. His name is Christian Binford.
Christian had a nice season in 2014 starting in Single-A Advanced Wilmington and ended with a championship with Triple-A Omaha. Drafted in the 30th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals out of Mercersburg Academy (high school) in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, Binford became a Royals Top 5 prospect pitcher. I recently got the opportunity to talk with Christian about his career and more:
Q: One of the first batters you faced in Triple-A was MLB veteran Bobby Abreu. You struck him out. Were you nervous facing a guy like him?
CB: Facing Bobby Abreu was amazing, got down on him 3-0 and then came back. Not gonna lie it was my first taste of big league hitting, but it was a great way to get my feet wet.
Q: Growing up in a small town of Hagerstown, did you ever think you would be where you are now?
CB: Of course I hoped I would make it here someday but I never thought I would so quickly.
Q: You had Tommy John Surgery in high school. Do you think this affected your potential?
CB: I think it affected my potential in a great and positive way actually. After surgery, I worked hard on my mechanics and it put me in a whole new mindset to work harder.
Q: I was able to watch you pitch the SirusXM All-Star Futures Game in July on TV. What was your overall experience? Besides pitching, what was your most memorable moment?
CB: The most memorable moment was sitting in the dugout after my inning was finished and looking up at the massive crowd. As far as the overall experience, we were treated like big leaguers and it really makes you want to get there quicker!
Q: Who do you think helped influence you to get as far as you have?
CB: My family and friends no doubt. There have been quite a few bumps in the road and they have been my rock to help me through any kind of situation.
Q: What/who helped you change your mind about signing with the Royals instead of going to college like you were committed to?
CB: I made up my mind on my own. My parents were behind me with whatever choice I made. Which made the decision simple once I made up my mind because I knew they would accept whatever choice I made.
Q: If you weren’t a baseball player, what would your career be?
CB: If I wasn’t in baseball, I would like to do something with finance. Like a financial planner or stock broker.
Q: What was it like to start the Triple-A Championship Game in Charlotte for Omaha? What were the emotions going through you during the game?
CB: It was an honor to be named the starter on such a big stage. Once I started pitching, all the emotions go back to just being a pitcher and just another game. But leading up to the game was tough, but we got through and pulled out the win!
Q: What did it mean to you to be the special guest speaker recently at the Nick Adenhart Baseball Camp?
CB: Speaking at the Nick Adenhart camp was one of the best experiences I have ever had. It gave me a chance to help give back and also do it in the memory of Nick. Its crazy thinking I am kinda following in his footsteps. I also wore number 34 for the Futures Game in his memory.
Q: The Royals are having a great season and there was thought that maybe you were a September call-up to help them push for the postseason. Do you believe you were ready or do you think you need a few more minor league innings before being promoted?
CB: I believe I would have been ready. Being moved to a reliever, I needed some outings before I got comfortable in that role but once I was able to get those outings, I knew what I needed to do.
Q: What do you think of the Royals vs Orioles ALCS matchup?
CB: I am excited to watch the matchup. Two smaller market teams who know how to play the game correctly. Crazy to think I played with a lot of them coming up this year and now I am watching them fight for a pennant.
-Note: The Nick Adenhart Baseball Camp is an annual youth baseball camp hosted at Williamsport High School in Williamsport, Maryland, in Nick’s honor. Each year, a special guest speaker (usually from the Orioles) comes to speak to the young players. Christian was selected to speak after Miguel Gonzalez (a former minor league teammate of Nick’s) had to cancel. The camp also has a silent auction of memorabilia to benefit the Nick Adenhart Memorial Foundation which supports Little League baseball and other non-profit organizations.