Hometown kid: Carter Jensen’s baseball journey continues at first MLB camp with Kansas City Royals

Kansas City royals catcher Carter Jensen said, “It was just a surreal feeling knowing I was going to be a part of the team I grew up watching.” (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

SURPRISE – For many players reporting to spring training this season, it was just the beginning of another long and grinding baseball marathon. But for Carter Jensen, this spring training meant a little more.

Jensen was reporting to his first major league camp for the Kansas City Royals, the team he cheered for as a child growing up in Missouri. Despite being assigned to the club’s minor league camp on March 3, he still made one of his dreams come true.

“It’s come full circle for sure,” Jensen said. “It’s just one of those things that’s incredible.”

The 20-year-old catching prospect was a standout at Park Hill High School in Kansas City. In his senior season, Jensen hit for a .387 batting average with a .578 OBP and committed to play at Louisiana State University.

But when he was chosen by the Royals in the third round of the 2021 MLB Draft, Jensen couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a member of his favorite team.

“It was just a surreal feeling knowing I was going to be a part of the team I grew up watching and I went to the World Series in 2015,” Jensen said.

Jensen still remembers the buzz around the city during that championship run.

Only one member of that World Series winning team is still with the Royals: catcher Salvador Perez. Jon Davis, Jensen’s former coach at Park Hill, said Perez has been Jensen’s inspiration for his entire baseball career.

“He’s always said that’s (Perez) been his favorite player,” Davis said. “I taught him in middle school so I’ve known him since he was about 12 and he’s always been a Salvy guy.”

Playing the same position as Perez gave Jensen the opportunity to watch and learn from his idol. Perez, who refers to Jensen as “Gato” because he thinks he looks like a cat, has high hopes for Jensen after working with him.

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“He’s a hard worker,” Perez said. “He likes to get better every day. He’s a great kid, humble and he’s got a lot. He’s going to be in the big leagues pretty soon.”

Even though the Royals’ captain sees the big leagues in Jensen’s near future, he is just getting started on his journey.

In 248 games split between rookie ball, Single A and High A, Jensen has hit for a .223 batting average with a .736 OPS and 23 home runs.

Youth could be an advantage for the young catcher. Royals manager Matt Quatraro wanted Jensen to use what ended up being 19 days in camp as an opportunity to learn from big leaguers with experience.

“Hopefully what he can take from it is just learning what the day-to-day looks like for those guys and not put too much pressure on himself and when he does get opportunities to go out there and perform, just leave it all out there,” Quatraro said.

Jensen played in six Cactus League games during his short stint in major league camp. He went 1-for-6 with a double and two RBIs over that stretch.

The jump from high school baseball to the professional level can come with a steep learning curve and Davis touted Jensen’s dedication to improving on the field.

“We always talk about the kids that go to college that don’t last for four years, (the reason) is because when they get to that level and it was more of a job, and that’s the part that he loves,” Davis said. “He just loves working on his craft, whether it be catching or hitting or whatever it is.”

Jensen acknowledged that he has more work to do before he gets to the major league roster. He is the No. 11 prospect in the Royals’ farm system and his estimated MLB arrival is 2025, according to MLB.com. But his experience at major league camp only motivated him more to get to the major leagues and help his hometown ballclub get back to its winning ways.

“I’m from Kansas City and this is my hometown team,” Jensen said. “It’s just fuel to the fire for me to work harder and try to bring home another championship when it gets to that moment.”

James Lotts(he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

James Lotts expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Lotts interned for Times Media Group, where he has been published in a number of different newspapers and magazines in Arizona and Southern California.