Local UDFA Barber getting chance to live out hometown dreams with Royals

July 17th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- Noah Barber was on campus at the University of Kansas beginning summer workouts ahead of the football season when baseball came calling.

Barber, 18, had planned on playing football at KU in 2023 as a non-scholarship player after impressing in his first season playing football at Blue Valley North High School, just outside of Kansas City. But even as the son of former NFL linebacker Shawn Barber -- who played for four teams including the Kansas City Chiefs -- Noah has always loved playing baseball.

So when the Royals offered Noah, a baseball outfielder and football defensive back, an undrafted free agent contract following the 2023 MLB Draft, he couldn’t pass up the chance to play professional baseball.

“As long as I can remember, baseball was it,” Barber said Saturday at Kauffman Stadium, where he was catching his last Royals game before heading to Arizona to officially sign and begin minicamp. “I don’t remember not playing baseball. I played other sports because my friends did, but the only time I felt like I was doing what I wanted to do was when I was playing baseball.

“I started playing football because it was the best opportunity at the time. … But I’m glad I have the opportunity to do what I really wanted to do.”

Barber played baseball growing up and in high school but otherwise lacked opportunities on the field, especially in a cold-weather state like Kansas. It wasn’t until this year that he caught the eyes of Royals officials because he played at the same school as the son of KC’s vice president of player personnel, Lonnie Goldberg. Barber helped Blue Valley North to the Kansas 6-A State championship game, where the Mustangs finished runner-up.

“About midway through the year, [area scout] Matt Price and I were talking, and I was like, ‘Hey, this kid’s got tools, he’s interesting for sure,’” Goldberg said. “And just kind of left it at that. As I continued to see him play, he started to get better.”

Barber is a raw athlete with plenty of tools to develop, the best of which is his speed. At 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, there’s room for his frame to fill out and tap into power.

“He can run. He can throw. He’s got a little bit of power,” Goldberg said. “He shows everything, flashes everything. … And the thing that sticks out about him when you get to know him, he’s not going to be intimidated. He might be overmatched to start, but he loves to compete.

“He’s got natural ability, really good makeup, a quick-twitch body, I just think it’s a lot of stuff to work with. Just hasn’t really been on the baseball field a lot. But there’s a lot of ceiling to him.”

Barber’s favorite player growing up was Lorenzo Cain, and he finds himself emulating the former Royals outfielder in his own game now.

“Lots of hustle, lots of athleticism,” Barber said. “I like to get after it, steal bases, love making diving plays, setting up to throw somebody out at the plate. When I’m hitting, I like to attack mistake pitches.”

Barber remembers watching the Royals win the 2015 World Series on TV when they clinched the title in New York. He was only 10 and stayed awake late to watch Game 5 and the celebration and got the day off school for the parade.

Now he’s part of that organization. The decision to come home from KU was only hard because of the people he met on campus.

“KU was awesome about this whole thing,” Barber said. “Those are my brothers over there. It was great, and the opportunity was great. But baseball has always really been my dream. It’s always been my love. So it really wasn’t a tough decision, it was just tough saying goodbye to the people at KU, because they’ve been so great to me.”

Barber is a lottery ticket, and time will tell the kind of player he turns into. He has a long way to go before he’s considered a prospect, and the Royals will take their time developing him.

But it’s clear from the way Barber talks about baseball that this is where he wants to be.

“This is my hometown team,” Barber said. “I’ve been to Kauffman [Stadium] thousands of times. It’s just great to go to an organization I’m so comfortable with. It feels really natural. And it’s my dream, you know?

“I can’t even explain how excited I am.”