In the minor leagues, they're called "The Next One," as in the next budding star, the next call-up.
In Sacramento, that's Michael Choice.
Choice, 23, is a built-like-a-linebacker center fielder for the River Cats. He has a big-league makeup now, his coaches and teammates say.
The swing. The arm. The attitude.
"Michael's unbelievable," River Cats catcher Stephen Vogt said. "It's special what he can do. He's got a really bright future. He's on his way."
Said manager Steve Scarsone: "Choice can be dominant. He'll get to the big leagues."
Choice and his teammates are so tantalizingly close to the bigs - just 80 miles from Oakland - it's almost as if they can smell the garlic fries from O.co Coliseum if the wind is right.
"I feel great right now, and every day I grow as a player," Choice said. "Everyone here has that ultimate goal to play in the big leagues. I know it takes time. I can't complain about anything."
Entering Thursday's game, Choice, the River Cats' cleanup hitter, was batting .291 with 41 RBIs and nine home runs after getting two hits and driving in three runs in Wednesday's 7-2 victory over the Salt Lake Bees. Choice has fine-tuned his mechanics at the plate in the past year and now has a more relaxed swing.
"At this time last year, he was a little frustrated in Double A," said Scarsone, who has managed Choice for three seasons. "It's different now. Looks great."
Choice's wife, Jade-Marie, and their 19-month old son, Blair, have been in Sacramento with him for a month. Choice, who calls Arlington, Texas, home, walked his son around the bases following Wednesday's game as fans applauded. He regularly chats with fans and signs autographs, and his wife snaps pictures.
Choice met Jade-Marie while shopping for athletic clothes in Oregon during his first year of pro ball in 2010. Living in Beaverton then, she was shopping, too.
"Bought a couple of pairs of shoes and met her," Choice said with a grin. "A good day."
Choice always has had a penchant to connect. In his first varsity at-bat in high school in Texas, he smacked a home run. A catcher and pitcher in high school, Choice was introduced to the outfield at the University of Texas-Arlington, the only program that offered him a scholarship.
"All I did was catch growing up, and I played some middle infield, so it took me a little while to get used to the outfield in college," Choice said.
In his Texas-Arlington career, Choice batted .392, hit a school-record 34 homers and drove in 162 runs. Undrafted out of high school, the A's took Choice in the first round, 10th overall, in the 2010 draft. It's his power that intrigues his coaches and the bosses in Oakland.
"I've always had a good amount of pop in my bat," Choice said. "I didn't categorize myself as a middle-of-the-lineup guy until my sophomore year in college, when it became a free and easy swing instead of trying to swing out of my shoes on every pitch."
That swing has made Choice's ascent to Triple A swift. He went from the Arizona Rookie League in 2010, to the Stockton Ports of High-A in 2011, to Double-A Midland last season, to an encouraging spring training with the A's this year before being assigned to the River Cats.
River Cats outfielder Michael Taylor has spent time with the A's, including earlier this season, so he knows what it takes to get there.
"Michael's got a really good arm, and he can run, and he has special hands with the bat," Taylor said. "That's the separator."
Choice said "The Next One" actually might be his son Blair, who has quickly taken to baseball, reaching for a bat or ball at any opportunity.
"He has a toy batting tee and ball, and he's hitting right-handed and throwing left-handed," Choice said. "Let's see if we can't switch the two."