June 2009

A needed break before a showdown

I’ve banged into some walls lately, but I hit a different kind of wall after we beat the Diamondbacks, 2-1, in Saturday’s game when big Mike Napoli hit that bomb to center field. I came out of the shower, wrapped a towel around my waist and sat there at my locker for, I don’t know, maybe 30 minutes. Didn’t move. Couldn’t move. My legs were killing me.

If anybody came up and talked to me, I don’t even remember. That must be what a marathoner goes through. I was in a different place mentally, just sitting there for the longest time, daydreaming.

The fatigue ran through my whole body, but I felt it most in my legs. Mike Scioscia gave me today off, so I could get ready for the big series in Texas and play this team we need to run away from.

Winning the first two games here in Arizona made it easier for me to take a day. Plus, we’ve got Gary Matthews Jr. to take over in center, and he’s one of the best out there.

I’ve hit walls three or four times recently, and I’ve been feeling it. But I’m getting better. There’s a difference between soreness and hurting. I’m not really hurting. But my legs were definitely sore yesterday.

Our goal right now is to win series. You can’t win them all, I know, but that’s what we’re trying to do. I want to get my time off now and then before the All-Star break, like today, because I plan on playing the whole second half. We’ve got business to take care of, and I want to give it everything I’ve got.
 
We’re playing well, feeling good now. There’s a nice vibe in the clubhouse. It’s coming together. We’re playing the way we can – great defense, timely hitting, good pitching. We’re running the bases aggressively. Man, Erick Aybar was flying around the bases when he scored on that bunt yesterday. What’s more exciting than that?

I’m seeing speed come back to the game, and it’s great to see. We went through that period from 1997 to 2007, I’d say, where it was all about power. The whole focus was on home runs in the so-called steroid era. Now I can see it changing, with more focus on speed. You even see it on the highlight shows, Carl Crawford stealing six bases in a game, Dexter Fowler getting five. There are some guys coming into the game who can fly, like Fowler, Adam Jones in Baltimore. I love that.

We’ll find out soon how the All-Star Game voting turns out. It would be a great honor to be there in St. Louis, with all the great players. Even if I’m not voted in, I think I have a pretty good shot at making it as a reserve. I’m having a good year, and I honestly think I’m getting better.

What people don’t realize is I was raw when I came into professional baseball. I didn’t even know what a slider was. I was also a late bloomer physically. In some ways, I’m just coming into my own. Having Bobby Abreu here has been big for me. I’m more disciplined at the plate than I’ve ever been, and I can thank Bobby for that. He’s a master up there, and he’s a great guy to play with, because he’s so willing to share his knowledge. He’s also a really funny guy, helping keep things loose.

I live in Texas in the off-season, but I’m going to be Torii unplugged the next few days during our series with the Rangers. I can’t be dealing with all those outside distractions, so I’ll unplug all the phones and turn off the lights and just get my rest.

It’s time for us to take care of our business.

 

 
 

Thinking about the ‘Say Hey Kid’

When you come to San Francisco, you’re in Willie Mays country. This is his turf. You go by the statue of him outside AT&T Park, and it really hits home. This is where he played some of his greatest baseball, one of the all-time best.

It’s almost like he invented the position I play. He was the master of center field, no quesiton about it.It’s his position, and I’m honored to follow in his footsteps.

I had the good fortune to meet him once. It was at the 2007 All-Star Game here. He was The Man that day, walking out on the red carpet, getting that great ovation from the people. It was emotional for everybody. Seeing Willie Mays walk on that field, a tear in his eye, that really got to me. He is loved here, that’s for sure.

When we all huddled around him on the field before the game that day, I shook his hand. He had a tear in his eye, and I remember how thrilled I was when he told me that he liked the way I play the game. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, coming from where I did in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a football player who became a baseball player. Hearing the great Willie Mays tell me that, it blew me away.

All I could think of watching him that day was the film of that classic catch he made in the 1954 World Series, his back to the infield, whirling and making that throw. He was known as the “Say Hey Kid” when he was young, and he played center field the way I’ve always wanted to play it, dreamed of playing it. He threw his whole body and soul into the game. I think that’s why he’s always been so admired — that attitude he brought to the game along with his incredible tools.

People always focus on a guy’s power, his offense, but Willie could beat you running the bases, making great catches and throws, doing it all. He had amazing instincts. When you have a five-tool guy like that, you don’t let him go. You keep him, work with him, help him grow into the player he can be.

I just wish I could have seen him play live. Everybody I’ve talked to who saw him says he was the best, that the brought so much energy and passion to the game that it had an impact on everybody. That’s what I try to do, play the game aggressively, without fear of failure. A young guy like Sean Rodriguez comes up and sees the way I play, hopefully that shows him that you should play aggressively, go first to third, not worry about making a mistake. You have to be bold and believe in yourself to succeed in this game.

I got to know Preston Gomez after I signed with the Angels, and he’s someone we all miss, like Nick Adenhart. Preston was in the game for about 60 years, and he always said Willie Mays was the greatest player of them all.

One of the best compliments I’ve gotten was when Preston told Lyle Spencer of MLB.com, just before he had that accident after leaving Spring Training in 2008, that I reminded him of Willie Mays in some ways. He told Lyle that it was not just the way I played center field and hit with power and ran the bases, but the way I work at my game, trying always to get better. I’m learning new things all the time, and I think I’m better now than I’ve ever been, because of the knowledge I’ve been able to pick up and apply to my game.

One thing Preston told Lyle that I especially appreciate is that I have a positive impact on my teammates. He said I was one of the best leaders, and it would show in the work ethic of my teammates. If that is the case, it’s something I’m tremendously proud of, because nothing is more important to me than playing the game right and being an example for the younger guys coming up.

When you think about it, being compared to Willie Mays in any way is an honor. Coming from a great and respected baseball man like Preston Gomez, that is something I’ll always cherish. 

    

Thinking about the Say Hey Kid

When you come to San Francisco, you’re in Willie Mays country. This is his turf. You go by the statue of him outside AT&T Park, and it really hits home. This is where he played some of his greatest baseball, one of the all-time best.

It’s almost like he invented the position I play. He was the master of center field, no quesiton about it.It’s his position, and I’m honored to follow in his footsteps.

I had the good fortune to meet him once. It was at the 2007 All-Star Game here. He was The Man that day, walking out on the red carpet, getting that great ovation from the people. It was emotional for everybody. Seeing Willie Mays walk on that field, a tear in his eye, that really got to me. He is loved here, that’s for sure.

When we all huddled around him on the field before the game that day, I shook his hand. He had a tear in his eye, and I remember how thrilled I was when he told me that he liked the way I play the game. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, coming from where I did in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a football player who became a baseball player. Hearing the great Willie Mays tell me that, it blew me away.

All I could think of watching him that day was the film of that classic catch he made in the 1954 World Series, his back to the infield, whirling and making that throw. He was known as the “Say Hey Kid” when he was young, and he played center field the way I’ve always wanted to play it, dreamed of playing it. He threw his whole body and soul into the game. I think that’s why he’s always been so admired — that attitude he brought to the game along with his incredible tools.

People always focus on a guy’s power, his offense, but Willie could beat you running the bases, making great catches and throws, doing it all. He had amazing instincts. When you have a five-tool guy like that, you don’t let him go. You keep him, work with him, help him grow into the player he can be.

I just wish I could have seen him play live. Everybody I’ve talked to who saw him says he was the best, that the brought so much energy and passion to the game that it had an impact on everybody. That’s what I try to do, play the game aggressively, without fear of failure. A young guy like Sean Rodriguez comes up and sees the way I play, hopefully that shows him that you should play aggressively, go first to third, not worry about making a mistake. You have to be bold and believe in yourself to succeed in this game.

I got to know Preston Gomez after I signed with the Angels, and he’s someone we all miss, like Nick Adenhart. Preston was in the game for about 60 years, and he always said Willie Mays was the greatest player of them all.

One of the best compliments I’ve gotten was when Preston told Lyle Spencer of MLB.com, just before he had that accident after leaving Spring Training in 2008, that I reminded him of Willie Mays in some ways. He told Lyle that it was not just the way I played center field and hit with power and ran the bases, but the way I work at my game, trying always to get better. I’m learning new things all the time, and I think I’m better now than I’ve ever been, because of the knowledge I’ve been able to pick up and apply to my game.

One thing Preston told Lyle that I especially appreciate is that I have a positive impact on my teammates. He said I was one of the best leaders, and it would show in the work ethic of my teammates. If that is the case, it’s something I’m tremendously proud of, because nothing is more important to me than playing the game right and being an example for the younger guys coming up.

When you think about it, being compared to Willie Mays in any way is an honor. Coming from a great and respected baseball man like Preston Gomez, that is something I’ll always cherish. 

    

Pumped for Escobar’s return

Saturday is a special day for the Angels. Kelvim Escobar will be on the mound in a big-league game for the first time since October of 2007 when he was one of the best in the game.

I’m excited he’s coming back, probably almost as excited as he is. One of the reasons I came to the Angels was Kelvim, along with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver. That’s five good starters right there, as good as any group you’ll find when they’re all healthy and dealing.

This will be my first time playing behind Escobar in a real game, and I’m pumped. His first start in a year and a half, that’s big – for us and for him.

You want him to come out and dominate, but that’s a big-time lineup he’ll be facing. The Tigers can rake. Plus, you’ve got to give him a little space, make sure he doesn’t try to do too much too soon. He’s a fierce competitor, but he’s still working on it, trying to get it back. It takes time in this game. Nothing happens overnight.

Nobody has to convince me how good Kelvim is. I have first-hand knowledge of that. He used to have his way with me when he was with the Blue Jays and I was with the Twins. He was like a Torii Hunter specialist. Seems like I had to face him all the time, and he always had that little smile on his face. No wonder.

I’m a .130 lifetime hitter against the guy. Three hits in 23 at-bats, with one home run and three RBIs. He struck me out seven times and I walked twice.

You can see why I’m happy to be on his side now.

What makes Escobar so good is his stuff and his attitude. He’s tough, and he has a deep bag to go into for any situation. I don’t think there’s any pitcher in the game with more variety than Kelvim. He has the four-seamer he gets up in the mid-90s, the two-seamer that moves, curveball, slider, split, changeup. The whole package. He’ll throw you anything, and you never know what’s coming.

I might as well have gone up blindfolded when he was with the Blue Jays. I didn’t know what was coming. I’m just glad I don’t have to hit against him anymore. That’s one less nightmare.

One thing I’ve learned about Kelvim, being his teammate, is that he works as hard as anybody, including those of us who play every day. He’s fit and strong, and that’s why I think he’s been able to come back after a serious shoulder surgery.

He’s smart, too. Kelvim’s always drinking water, staying hydrated. He knows what he has to do to get back on the field – and stay on the field.

Angels fans should be really excited about this. I know I am. I’ll be like a kid tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what Kelvim does. But it’s important to keep in mind that this is just the first step back in the journey.
 

Pumped for Escobars return

Saturday is a special day for the Angels. Kelvim Escobar will be on the mound in a big-league game for the first time since October of 2007 when he was one of the best in the game.

I’m excited he’s coming back, probably almost as excited as he is. One of the reasons I came to the Angels was Kelvim, along with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver. That’s five good starters right there, as good as any group you’ll find when they’re all healthy and dealing.

This will be my first time playing behind Escobar in a real game, and I’m pumped. His first start in a year and a half, that’s big – for us and for him.

You want him to come out and dominate, but that’s a big-time lineup he’ll be facing. The Tigers can rake. Plus, you’ve got to give him a little space, make sure he doesn’t try to do too much too soon. He’s a fierce competitor, but he’s still working on it, trying to get it back. It takes time in this game. Nothing happens overnight.

Nobody has to convince me how good Kelvim is. I have first-hand knowledge of that. He used to have his way with me when he was with the Blue Jays and I was with the Twins. He was like a Torii Hunter specialist. Seems like I had to face him all the time, and he always had that little smile on his face. No wonder.

I’m a .130 lifetime hitter against the guy. Three hits in 23 at-bats, with one home run and three RBIs. He struck me out seven times and I walked twice.

You can see why I’m happy to be on his side now.

What makes Escobar so good is his stuff and his attitude. He’s tough, and he has a deep bag to go into for any situation. I don’t think there’s any pitcher in the game with more variety than Kelvim. He has the four-seamer he gets up in the mid-90s, the two-seamer that moves, curveball, slider, split, changeup. The whole package. He’ll throw you anything, and you never know what’s coming.

I might as well have gone up blindfolded when he was with the Blue Jays. I didn’t know what was coming. I’m just glad I don’t have to hit against him anymore. That’s one less nightmare.

One thing I’ve learned about Kelvim, being his teammate, is that he works as hard as anybody, including those of us who play every day. He’s fit and strong, and that’s why I think he’s been able to come back after a serious shoulder surgery.

He’s smart, too. Kelvim’s always drinking water, staying hydrated. He knows what he has to do to get back on the field – and stay on the field.

Angels fans should be really excited about this. I know I am. I’ll be like a kid tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what Kelvim does. But it’s important to keep in mind that this is just the first step back in the journey.
 

Hangin with Mr. Hunter

Hey everyone, check out the Season Debut of Hangin with Mr. Hunter that aired
last week with Red Sox 1B David Ortiz”

Tune
in to Angels Pre and Post Game Shows on Fox Sports West to check it out all
season long!

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