A couple of years ago, when the Surprise complex opened for the Royals and Rangers, you basically would drive down Bell Road after getting off the 101 and see a whole lot of nothing.

I hadn’t been out to Surprise since 2004, so I imagined there’d be a little development. A little doesn’t quite describe it — little mini-strip malls and housing developments have popped up as far as the eye can see (some may argue that that still amounts to a whole lot of nothing). Now, at least, there’s more than the one Starbucks along the drag to get the jolt of caffeine you need when you want to get to the camp by 8 a.m. to get things done before  workouts start.

Today’s visit was to the Royals side and it’s a much different looking clubhouse than it was just a year ago. Several more veterans are in the house, but obviously I wasn’t concerned with that. Instead, I had a nice chat with first-rounder Alex Gordon, enjoying his first Spring Training and yet to play a regular season game as a professional. I talked with Aussie Justin Huber, who’s really ready for a job (little advanced warning: we’ll be doing a Free the Prospect series on but instead is embracing the extra development time at first base and learning all he can from Gold Glover Doug Mientkiewicz. If Huber is in Triple-A at midseason, you know he’s going to the Futures Game again, at which point it will officially be renamed the Huber All-Star Futures Game. Finally, I tracked down, and pitching prospect Luis Cota (the Royals think he’s for real, but in a system which is much more offense-heavy in terms of the talent pool, we’ll have to wait and see if he’s being placed on a pedestal for lack of a better option).

Another culinary tidbit. There’s a new food booth at Surprise, and it’s worth noting because in prior visits to the complex, the best option probably was the fried twinkie (comes with free EKG). Now, there’ll be a stand run by Appetitite’s Catering. Good, official Kansas City BBQ. The retirees of Surprise won’t know what hit them, but they won’t be able to resist the smell coming from the smokers, where pulled pork and smoked turkey will be all the rage. With games underway, be sure to check that out. The owner was going to open for the Cactus League schedule tomorrow, so I’ll have to make it back out there when I come back to Arizona at the end of the month.

Tomorrow, a trip to Tempe for a visit with Howie and B-Wood…

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