What is eerie is how much the son resembles his father. Brian McRae has his dad's round face, constant stubble of beard and quick smile.

Like his dad, Brian McRae seldom meets a stranger and, at 18, moves with the cocky air of someone much older. Like his father, he holds the bat high over his right shoulder, describing circles with the end of the bat as the pitcher is about to throw.

Like his dad, Brian McRae never has hit much for power, but said, "I'm starting to pop the ball a little more."

If ever there was a kid born to play baseball, he may be it. The son of Hal McRae, one of the most consistent hitters in major league history, Brian grew up around the game.

His dad wouldn't let him play Little League because he thought there would be too much pressure on the boy and because he didn't like the overemphasis on winning.

But the game was a constant in their lives. The family spent summers in Bluefield, Mo., near Kansas City, and winters in Bradenton, Fla.

They spent their springs here with the Kansas City Royals, and while other kids played Little League games, Brian McRae played catch with Lee May and Amos Otis, took batting practice from Dennis Leonard.

Now that he is here as a real player with a real locker, it is hardly different.

"It's a little strange," McRae said, "because I've been here so many other times. I know everyone."

"No," Hal McRae said, "don't let him kid you. I'm sure he's a little nervous."

Until young McRae was sent to the Royals' minor league camp at Sarasota last week, he and his father had lockers a few feet apart here. The Royals believe they are the first to have a father-son team in an organization at the same time, and Brian McRae has some hope they will play together someday.

But that's unlikely. The senior McRae will turn 40 this year and is nearing the end of a marvelous career (.291 career average, 183 career homers). Brian McRae, who was the Royals' first-round draft pick last summer, or below.

Last season, playing second base for the Kansas City rookie team at Sarasota, he started slowly, but finished with a decent .267 average, 23 RBI and 27 stolen bases in 60 games.

"He had some trouble at the beginning," his father said, "but it's a big adjustment, that summer in pro ball. He got straightened and played real well toward the end."

The hard decision for him was whether to accept the Royals' money or a football scholarship to the University of Kansas.

"The money was right and the club was right," he said of choosing baseball. "It was everything. This is a good situation. I knew for two or three years the lifestyle would be tough, but in the long run, the benefits will be much better. Plus, I'll be honest, I really didn't care about going to school."

He said his father offered information, but never advice.

If young McRae's stance is similar to his father's, it is not a carbon copy of the one the late coach Charlie Lau helped Hal develop.

"I don't even want people to say we look alike," Hal McRae said. "He's a second baseman and I was an outfielder. He has been a DH for the last 13 years. "

Hal McRae said he began hearing things from scouts last summer that Brian might be a high draft pick, but he never knew how high until the Royals asked what their chances of signing him would be.

"They wanted to know if he was set on going to Kansas and all that. They basically wanted to know if they'd look like dummies if they signed him. I told them the money would have to be right, and that meant he'd have to go in the first round, which he did."

Hal McRae's reputation is as one of baseball's no-nonsense people. He still takes extra rounds of batting practice and still likes to measure his bat speed against the Royals' young pitchers.

Asked how he liked being part of a team that had just won a World Series, he said, "It's nice, but you have to put all that behind you and get on with the next season. Last year doesn't mean anything this year."

Similarly, he wants people to forget that Brian McRae is his son, so that the younger man can get down to the business of preparing for the big leagues. Deep down, he admits, he feels proud.

"I'm happy, sure I am," he said. "I'm happy he's here with us. But you can't walk around thinking about it. He has to take it in stride and do the things he has to do to get ready for the season. I'm not sitting here now thinking it's great. I'm thinking he has to keep working."

Did his son get homesick last summer?

"I'm sure he did," Hal McRae said, "but when he'd call, he'd want to talk about mechanical things -- how to get out of a slump or whatever. He's really a good kid. Kind of quiet. He goes about his business quietly."