July 2009

Shooting for a ring — and a trip to D.C.

I’m known for having good timing, especially in center field, but it let me down for once when I got hurt and couldn’t go to St. Louis to play in the All-Star Game. That was terrible timing.

I was so excited when I was selected to the American League All-Star team. Unfortunately, my body just didn’t hold up for me after I ran into those walls at Dodger Stadium and San Francisco. I remember the day when it finally got to me, and I knew I was in trouble. It was after that game in Arizona on June 27 when I sat at my locker for the longest time, in a daze. I couldn’t move. My groin was killing me. That was the day it blew up on me. I tried to play on, but it never really was right after that.

There were several reasons why it was so disappointing not to be in St. Louis. First of all, I appreciated all the fans voting for me when I came in fourth in the balloting, just missing out on the starting lineup. And I really felt good when my fellow players put me on the team by giving me the second most votes of all the American League outfielders, behind Jason Bay. In fact, I got the fourth most votes of all the players in the league. That was tremendous, feeling all that respect from my peers.

As for the All-Star Game, the presence of Barack Obama, our first African-American President, made it something really special to me. He was in the clubhouse shaking everybody’s hand, and I was home with my family in Texas – not that there was anything wrong with that. It’s always good to have some time with the family. But I hated that I missed out on meeting Barack Obama.

When I was growing up in Arkansas, we’d be out messing around and you’d hear a kid say, “I want to grow up to be the President.” And we’d say, “Hey, you’re black. No way you’re going to be President. Are you out of your mind?”

Now here it is, happening in our lifetime. It’s an amazing thing to see. And I was supposed to be there in St. Louis, playing in front of the President and meeting him. But it didn’t happen.

I’m getting better with this adductor strain on my right side. What this does, as I recover, is make me want to get to the World Series and win it even more than ever, if that’s possible.

Now I have a double goal: win the World Series and go to the White House with my team and meet the President there. We could talk some hoops, maybe play “horse,” shoot around a little. I know basketball is his game, and I could play the game in my time.

To be there with my teammates, after winning a World Series, that would top meeting Barack Obama at the All-Star Game. That would be so cool, for all of us. So I’m looking at it as an added incentive to go out and win a World Series. That would be the best of both worlds. We win the World Series, and meet Barack Obama at the White House.

Hey, it can happen. We’ve got a ton of talent on this team. Watching how our offense came through without Vladimir Guerrero and me in the lineup, against the Yankees and in the first game after the break against the A’s, that’s impressive. We’ve got a lot of guys who can swing the bat, and if our pitching comes together the way it can . . . look out.

The Angels could rock all the way through October, to Washington, D.C. and the house of President Obama and the First Lady.

Missing All-Star Game a real pain in the adductor

Man, this really hurts. And I’m not just talking about the adductor strain, which I’m learning all about from our medical staff. The timing of it really hurts. There’s no good time to get injured, of course, but I was really looking forward to playing in the All-Star Game in St. Louis. Nobody would have had a better time than me and my family and friends. 

Where I grew up, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the Cardinals were everybody’s team. I learned the game from my granddad, who watched baseball every day. I had family and friends coming to St. Louis to enjoy the whole show with me, and now I can’t play. It’s disappointing. Very disappointing. I still have the tickets, and they can go to all the functions if they want, but it won’t be the same.

I really wanted to be in my first All-Star Game representing the Angels, representing Arkansas, and I’m on the DL. That was not my plan at all. I’m just very sorry this happened the way it did. I appreciate all the votes, all the fans who wanted me to play in the game. That means a lot to me.

I knew I had a problem on Tuesday night when I couldn’t beat out a throw on a double play ball. I just couldn’t get a burst down the line. I came in after the game and was feeling bad, and finally told the trainers. It’s been bothering me for a while. Remember a while back, when we were in Arizona, and I sat at my locker for the longest time after the game, kind of daydreaming? My leg was killing me that day.

On Wednesday they wanted to put me on the DL right away, but I was fighting it. I was hoping it would come around quickly, but this morning it was still pretty sore. Every time the trainers touch it, it’s sore.

That’s just not in my DNA, going on the DL. It took a broken ankle in 2005 to get me on it with the Twins. We haven’t talked yet about the rehab plan, but I might have to stay here during the break and have it worked on. We’ll see how that goes. The big thing, the most important thing, is being healthy for the final two months. I don’t want to miss a game, an inning, down the stretch. We’re in a race for this division, and that’s what matters most to all of us.

The timeline for coming back is two to three weeks. Hopefully, it’s not that long.

I know I have to be smarter sometimes about going after balls and running into walls, but it’s in my blood. I’m a competitor. I’ve run into a wall in a 10-zero game. The one in San Francisco on June 15, when we were leading 8-zero, I probably should have played that one off the wall. But the one at Dodger Stadium on May 22, I had no regrets about that one. I caught that ball, and we won a close game. It goes with the turf. Besides, I know how to protect myself, how to cushion the blow. I’ve gone into enough walls by now.

It will be tough watching us play, along with big Vladimir Guerrero, who’s also out for a while with the muscle strain behind his left knee. But this team has a lot of heart. We battle. Most of the time, no matter how far down we are, we’re going to come back. We’ve had a lot of late-inning comebacks, rallies. That’s one thing about this club — we’re going to keep battling, keep banging.

Once again, before I sign off, I want to thank all the people out there who voted for me for the All-Star Game. I’ve been blessed to play for some great fans, and I value that relationship tremendously.

I’ll be back, ready to go. There’s still a lot of season left, and we plan to make it memorable.

 

    

 

Meet me in St. Loo, Chone — and flip, Wizard style

I’ll be heading off to St. Louis for my third All-Star Game, and it’s something that means a lot to me. I’m so happy for the guys who are going for the first time, guys like Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson, Andrew Bailey, Tim Wakefield. I know what that feeling is like. I really hope Chone Figgins wins the Final Vote on MLB.com and makes it, too, because he is deserving.

Chone is a guy who just loves the game of baseball, everything about it. Everybody knows Ozzie Smith was one of his favorite players, and Chone would love to go out on that field in St. Louis and do a back flip like Ozzie. I think the fans would go crazy watching that. This guy can do those back flips — I’ve seen him.

Maybe that will help him get the votes he needs to get on the team. I definitely want to see him there on the American League team, with Brian Fuentes and myself, because he’s having a great year.

He has become a Gold Glove third baseman, and he’s the guy who makes our team go. The last month and a half, he’s been carrying us — getting on base, scoring runs, making plays in the field. He could play anywhere on the field if they need him to. I’ve never seen anybody more versatile than Chone, or anybody who loves the game more and works at it any harder.

If he does win the vote, I hope his first All-Star Game is as memorable as mine. That would be pretty hard to match, I have to admit.

I was voted into the starting lineup in 2002 when I was with the Twins. The game was in Milwaukee, and when I went out to take the field, I was a little nervous, feeling the butterflies. Your first All-Star Game, that’s a thrill. You’re just trying to stay calm, stay in the moment.

As luck would have it, Barry Bonds gets up and hits a shot to center. I’m thinking it’s gone. But then as I’m going back, I’m thinking maybe I’ve got a shot at it. I saw the ball dying and jumped up with everything I had — and caught it. It was one of those moments you dream about. My first inning of my first All-Star Game, and I take a home run away from Barry Bonds, the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen with my two eyes.

Of course, Barry came out and picked me up and put me on his shoulders. That was a show. I’m 26 years old, and here’s this guy Barry Bonds carrying me on his shoulders in the All-Star Game.

We have a DVD of that game, that catch, and I’ll be playing it for my grandkids when I’m an old man. What’s funny about that is that, in a way, I made that game a tie and that caused all that controversy.

My second All-Star Game was in San Francisco in 2007. The best part of that was meeting Willie Mays when he was honored before the game. What’s so amazing about the All-Star Game is all the players you hang around with and the great stars you meet, people you’ve admired since you were a kid. It’s an exciting time, and I’m honored to be going back.

I just hope Chone Figgins comes with me. He’ll flip if he makes it, I promise you.

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