Falu's Perseverance Pays Off

Shortstop's long path leads to the majors

KANSAS CITY—Shortstop Irving Falu's picture should reside next to the word "perseverance" in the dictionary. He had 3,624 at-bats in 949 minor league games spread over 10 years before he made his big league debut in May.

He and Mitch Maier are the longest-tenured Royals on the big league roster. Maier was a 2003 first-round pick and made his Royals debut in 2006. Falu was chosen in the 21st round of the same draft after hitting .374 and leading Indian Hills (Iowa) JC to the Junior College World Series. Thus began his long odyssey to the majors.

Falu, 28, is the cousin of former Royal Luis Alicea and had started his fourth season with Triple-A Omaha. He spent his first two years in the Rookie-level Arizona League and has played for three teams—low Class A Burlington, high Class A High Desert and Double-A Wichita—that are no longer Royals affiliates.

When the Royals placed Yuniesky Betancourt on the disabled list May 3 with a high right-ankle sprain, they called Falu up from Omaha. The Storm Chasers had a day game at Nashville and Falu was back in his hotel room when manager Mike Jirschele called. At first, Falu thought Jirschele was joking.

"He said, 'You made it,' " Falu said. "I said, 'It what?' He said, 'I never played in the big leagues. I never coached in the big leagues. You made it to the big leagues before me.' "

Then Falu's emotions took over.

"I'm crying like a baby," Falu said. "It's too hard to explain. It's like 10 years in the minors. It's hard, you know? I thought I would never ever get big league time."

Falu was batting .306/.346/.403 for Omaha when he was promoted. He went 2-for-4 in his first big league game and became the third Royal to triple in his first plate appearance. He was 14-for-35 so far with Kansas City.

"He's put his time in," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I'm glad to see kids that put forth the effort to be the best player they can and finally get an opportunity on the big league level."


• Four Royals pitchers—Greg Holland (who pitched the first inning on a rehab assignment), Chris Dwyer, Brendan Lafferty and Kendal Volz—combined for a Double-A Northwest Arkansas no-hitter May 9 against Springfield.

• Low Class A Kane County shortstop Orlando Calixte hit four home runs in eight games, including a grand slam and a walkoff. He hit just three home runs in 81 games last year in the Midwest League.