HAGERSTOWN —Hagerstown’s Christian Binford is taking a break from living the dream he hopes carries him one day to the major leagues.
A graduate of Mercersburg Academy and a new product of the Kansas City Royals farm system, Binford recently returned home from Arizona to take a break, rest up, and get ready for spring training in March.
Binford, drafted in the 30th round by the Royals in the June draft, bypassed attending the University of Virginia and signed with the Royals. He started his professional career in the rookie leagues with Surprise, Ariz., before being assigned to Burlington, N.C., another Royals Rookie League team.
Binford finally made his debut on July 15 against Princeton, going two innings in a pitch-count limit start, one which he thought would never develop.
He had a twinge in his shoulder that held him back and when he was scheduled to start, Burlington had three straight rainouts.
“It was frustrating but once it came I was nervous as hell,” Binford said. “All my life I’ve wanted this. It was a dream come true.”
His first victory came on Aug. 6 in a six-inning performance against Pulaski.
For the season, Binford went 2-3 in 40 innings with a 2.03 earned run average and 31 strikeouts. He allowed nine earned runs and walked only four batters.
“Being away from home really made me grow up,” Binford said. “Playing against teams with top draft picks, on your own team with guys the same age. You really bond together.”
Binford, who is 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, had one minor misgiving about his size.
“I disliked the busses,” he said. “(They were) a little cramped but I found a seat that was comfortable the whole season.”
As is custom in this era with young pitchers, arms are being protected with pitch counts and Binford is no different. He said he was limited to between 75-85 pitches and his fastball topped out at 93-94 mph with an average during the season between 88 and 92 mph.
After the season, Binford went back to Arizona and the Instructional League, working on aspects of his pitching.
“My weak point is probably my changeup,” Binford said. “We worked on my arm motion and action. We’ll work on that in spring training.”
In 2009, Binford underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. He returned to the mound for his senior season at Mercersburg Academy to fashion a 9-2 record, including an no-hitter, and a 0.57 ERA.
Binford will also look forward to his assignment next spring.
Recently the Royals signed Lexington (Ky.), of the South Atlantic League, as their new low-Class A affiliate.
“(Kansas City) said they usually don’t repeat going to the same minor league team,” Binford said.
There’s also the possibility of an assignment to Idaho Falls, Idaho, however, Binford would welcome nothing more than pitching professionally in his hometown.
Provided, of course, the Hagerstown Suns are still playing here.