This is what I hoped for, what I envisioned when I signed my free-agent contract with the Angels last winter. We’re in the postseason, with a good shot at getting to the World Series and winning it all. But that’s not the whole story.
As thrilled as I am to be a part of this team, I couldn’t be any happier with what the Twins have done since I left Minnesota.
I’ve got a lot of friends there, a lot of people I truly love. That’s why it was so hard on a personal level to leave. Everything I know about the game — how to play it right, how to develop chemistry, how to get everything you can out of the talent you have — comes from that organization. We’ve achieved a lot here with the Angels this year, and so have the Twins.
Really, it couldn’t have worked out any better for everybody concerned.
One of the positives to come out of me leaving Minnesota was that Denard Span got a chance to show what he can do. Denard was my protégé. He came to Texas to work out with me in the offseason, and we talked all the time about the life of baseball. To see him get that opportunity and come through the way he has is just awesome for me.
That’s really amazing, what they’ve done. I mean, Johan Santana is one of the best pitchers in the game, and they also lost Carlos Silva to the Mariners. That’s where their pitching philosophy came through for them. They teach their guys to pound the strike zone, and that’s what they do. They catch the ball and run the bases hard. And they’re smart; you rarely see them beat themselves. I have tremendous respect for that organization, the way they teach guys to play the right way all through the organization.
Everything I brought here with me, I learned there. I am indebted to the Twins for that. I’ll always have a connection to that organization and the city. It was a great time in my life. But the time came where it was best for me to make a move — and this is where I definitely wanted to be.
Going all the way back to 2002 when the Angels beat us in the ALCS, I’ve admired the way they play the game. They do all the things the Twins do. When I became a free agent, I was a scout. I talked to eight or nine teams, and the Angels were right at the top — with the Twins.
You can’t explain it to fans, but getting off the artificial turf was a big deal for me. I didn’t want to be like so many guys who played the outfield on carpets and had to leave the game too soon, before their time, because of the beating their bodies took on it. It’s a long list, and I didn’t want to be on it.
I want to play this game as long as I can, because I love everything about it. That’s one of the things that made the Angels so appealing to me from the start. On top of playing the game the right way, like the Twins, they played outside — on grass. And in front of great fans, like we had in Minnesota.
Early in the free-agent process, it didn’t look like the Angels were going to get involved. When they did, kind of out of the blue, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. It came together fast, like a dream. And like I keep saying, it couldn’t have worked out any better.
I’ve had no problems with my body this year. I go in for a massage, but that’s about it. Playing on a hard turf, by the end of the season you’re all beat up. My body is feeling great.
This team has so much talent, it’s unbelievable. And some great guys, too. I’ve tried to open up a few of them with my jokes and attitude, and I think I’ve done that. If you’re having a good time, it makes the season more enjoyable — and it can be a long season if you’re not having a good time.
Rolling around on the floor in the clubhouse, wearing those goggles, swimming and dancing during our celebration after winning the division title, that was about as good as it gets. I loved seeing the guys cut loose and really have some fun together. That’s part of building camaraderie, chemistry. You’re all in it together — literally, in that case.
Now it’s time to go out and take care of business. These guys know what they have to do. It’s all about playing the game with feeling, playing from your heart and executing with your head, hands and feet.