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Goins, Zobrist formed in same college ranks

Stomping Grounds: Blue Jays, Royals infielders pride of Dallas Baptist

KANSAS CITY -- Some years back, Ben Zobrist spoke at a banquet for his college, a little-known baseball factory called Dallas Baptist University. And in the crowd that night was Ryan Goins, at that point a collegiate athlete aspiring to become what Zobrist already was.

Now here they are, two scrappy, understated second basemen competing against one another in the American League Championship Series.

:: ALCS: Blue Jays vs. Royals -- Tune-in info ::

Goins smiled at the thought.

"When he was first called up, he wasn't who he is now," Goins said of Zobrist, the super-utility player who became the Royals' everyday second baseman when Alex Gordon returned in September. "He turned himself into the player that he is. It's kind of the path that I'm taking, as well, trying to turn myself into a player who can stick every day. That's a guy that kind of has the same path as myself."

Zobrist, 34, didn't get drafted until the sixth round, didn't debut until age 25 and didn't become an everyday player until his age-28 season in 2009. But he became an All-Star that year and quickly established himself as one of the most valuable, versatile players in the game, batting .271/.363/.439 while averaging 16 homers and 14 stolen bases over a seven-year stretch.

Goins, 27, was a fourth-round Draft pick who only became the Blue Jays' everyday second baseman because Devon Travis sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in late July. Since then, Goins has been a staple in the lineup, impressing with his standout defense and providing some occasional pop.

"I knew he was a good player in college," Zobrist said. "He always was a real smooth, good hitter, even back then. I'm not surprised that he got to the big leagues."

:: Stomping Grounds: Where stars got their start ::

Zobrist has checked in on Goins from time to time over the years. Zobrist got him set up with his agent, Alan Nero, and has been there for support whenever Goins needed it.

The two are among 14 Major Leaguers from Dallas Baptist University, with a Division I baseball program that recently began competing in the Missouri Valley Conference. The likes of Lew Ford, Freddy Sanchez, Jason LaRue and Les Lancaster all hailed from there, and a lot more are expected to follow.

Zobrist called Dallas Baptist "the hottest up-and-coming college program out there," crediting longtime coach Dan Heefner, who's also Zobrist's brother-in-law.

"The guys they recruit are high-character guys," Goins said. "They bring in the right type of guy. They don't bring in the overly hyped high-school kid; they bring in baseball players. They might not be the biggest, fastest, strongest recruits, but they have a great program, a great offseason program, and they bring in good people."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast.
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