Results tagged ‘ Angels ’

Yankee Stadium, then and now

It’s an awesome place, no doubt about it. New Yankee Stadium has all the modern, state-of-the-art conveniences, and it still has that feel of the old stadium, where you always knew you were walking into history every time you played there. The field looks the same and plays basically the same, and that’s great. Why mess with a good thing?

It’s a funny thing about the old ballpark. I didn’t do very well there during the regular season, but I had some moments in October in the postseason. Even those came with a bad ending, though. The Yankees beat my Twins in the 2003 and 2004 playoffs, and that always stings. Still stings, to this day.

Lyle Spencer of MLB.com did some research and reminded me that I had some big games in the old park when it really counted. He told me I should remember that I came up big on the big stage, the biggest one, and I appreciated that.

In 2003, we won the first game of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium, 3-1. I had a triple, an RBI and two walks that day. In Game 2, Andy Pettitte beat us, 4-1. Our only run was a home run I hit, and I had another hit that day.

They beat us in four games in that series, and I ended up hitting .429. In my first playoff series, in 2002 against the A’s, I’d batted .300 with four doubles and two RBIs in five games.

I’m not that big on numbers, but it’s nice to have those next to my name, I have to admit. October baseball is what it’s all about. It always takes me back to my high school football days in Arkansas, the adrenaline and excitement and energy you feel.

In 2004, back at Yankee Stadium, we won Game 1 again, 2-0, behind Johan Santana, and I went 1-for-4. The next game was a heartbreaker. We lost, 7-6, in 12 innings. I went 3-for-6 with a double and a homer. I had a single against Tom Gordon when we scored two runs in the eighth inning to tie the game.

The homer came against Tanyon Sturtze with two outs in the 12th inning and gave us the lead. But the Yankees came back with two in the bottom half to win it.

That was my last postseason game in the old park. I ended up going 7-for-16 in the Bronx in those four games for a .438 average, with two homers, a triple and a double.

We ended up losing that series too, in four games, and I batted .353. It’s strange. Even though I put up some good numbers in those two series, I was left feeling nothing but disappointment and frustration.

It’s not hard to figure out why. This is a team game, and it’s all about winning. You win as a team, lose as a team.

So there we were last October, playing Boston in the ALDS, full of high hopes in my first season with the Angels. I thought we were ready. I was confident we had the best team — and it was the same deal. Heartbreak.

The numbers say I had a good series, hitting .389 with five RBIs in four games, but we lost, and it hurt way down deep. Same ol’ same ol’, and that’s something we have to change this season.

I’ve played in 20 ALDS games with a .350 average and a .563 slugging percentage. But the only time we made it to the AL Championship Series, in 2002, the Angels knocked us off on their way to the World Series title.

It’s time for the Angels to do it again. And I want to be right in the middle of it when it happens.  

Nick: Always and Forever

It’s not easy, but we’re moving on, moving forward, because that’s what we do. We’re professional athletes. We’ll go about our business and play quality, exciting baseball for you fans. But no one will walk into our clubhouse this year without thinking about Nick Adenhart. He’ll always be with us, this year and forever.

We all have our own ways of grieving and coping, of dealing with a tragedy like this. You’ve got to live your life and treat people the way you want to be treated. It starts right there. Do what you can to help others. Don’t always be so concerned about yourself. Think about making others around you comfortable and happy, and that will affect you in a positive way.

You never know when God calls you to come home. We’re a family here, and when He called Nick, it was like losing a brother. It hurts. One of the first things I did was call all my family members and tell them I love them. Every time I leave the house, I tell my wife and kids I love them. It’s something we all should do every chance we get. Talk to your kids, your brothers and sisters, tell them how you feel. You never know when something like that, what happened to Nick, might happen to you.

When you’re on a team like this, you spend more time with your teammates than you do your own family. So you become close, and naturally it hits everybody hard. Nick was just a kid, really, but he was a popular kid, a great kid. He was on his way to great accomplishments in this game. He wasn’t here long, but he did get to live out his dream to play in the big leagues – and shut out the Oakland A’s for six innings. That was the kind of performance that showed what was ahead of him. He pitched with his head and his heart. He had a gift and knew what to do with it.

Nick struck out guys he’d been watching since he was in junior high school. He was living out his dream. I kept pumping him up between innings, and I’ll never forget that look he had, that determination. When he came off the field after that last inning, when he put them away in order in the sixth, I could feel him, what it meant to him.

I left the stadium around 11:30. It just so happened Nick’s dad was here. It must be incredibly hard on his family right now, but at least his dad was able to see him, and Nick was able to tell his dad he loved him. Nick dropped him off at his hotel and went out with some friends, and they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He did nothing wrong. It could have happened to any of us.

That’s why I encourage everyone to look your loved ones in the eyes and tell them how you feel, how you love and appreciate them. And when I called my brothers the next day and told them I loved them, I also told them to please never drink and drive. That has to stop. No more drinking and driving. Period. We have to be more respectful to each other.
 
Those of us who make good livings playing a game know how fortunate we are. Not everyone can make it to the big leagues, obviously. But you can take something from Nick and his life, how he went after what he wanted, how he pushed through some adversity last year and kept believing in himself.

He was a tremendous young man, kind of quiet but funny in his way with his easy manner and style. He had a great work ethic and amazing talent. He loved his family. Those are some of the things we should remember when we think about Nick. He was one of us, a baseball player, a competitor, and we’re carrying on in his spirit and memory. It’s the best way we can honor him.

That’s what Nick would want us to do. I know he’ll be watching us, pulling for us, an eternal Angel. We’ll never stop thinking about Nick Adenhart, keeping him in our hearts and minds for the rest of our careers and our lives. A guy like that never really goes away. He’s always a part of you.

 

 

 

 

Nothing like Opening Day

This is my 11th Opening Day, and that’s really hard to believe. I can still remember my first one, in 1999. I was a nervous wreck that day. I still get butterflies on Opening Day, but it’ll be nothing like that first one. I spent most of my pre-game in the restroom. My stomach was driving me crazy. I had been called up in ’98 and played six games, but this was my first Opening Day — and every player remembers that feeling the first time.

Butterlies are normal. I think every player feels a little anxiety on Opening Day. I remember Paul Molitor, who played for 21 seasons, telling me he always got butterflies on Opening Day. You’re anxious to get started, to get it going. You want to get off to a great start. After tha first at-bat, the nerves go away and you just settle in and play the game. Your instincts take over.

That first Opening Day with the Twins, I got a hit, scored a run and got an RBI. We beat Toronto, 6-1. Pat Hentgen was pitching for them. I just remember how great it felt to be on the field with a Major League team. I was leading off and playing center field, 23 years old. I remember the announcer saying, “Leading off and playing center field, No. 48, Torii Hunter.” It’s still fresh in my mind, how that sounded. And how nervous I was.

Opening Day last year was something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. We were back in Minnesota, where I’d grown up as a player and a person, where I learned the game. I was surrounded by all these people I knew and loved, and I was wearing another uniform. It was a very strange experience. There was so much going on emotionally, it was very difficult for me to play that day.

I didn’t have a good day, I remember that. We lost, and I didn’t get a hit. I finally settled down during the series and got some hits, got some things done. We won three games. I was just relieved when it was over. I got standing ovations from the fans, which was great, and they presented me my Gold Glove. But I felt strange the whole time. I wonder if that’s ever happened before, a guy playing all those years in one place and then opening his first season in another uniform in that same stadium where he grew up.

Coming to Angel Stadium for the first time, playing in front of my new home crowd in my new home, that was totally different. I loved everything about that. I had some great moments right off the bat, hitting a walk-off grand slam, making some catches. I remember getting hit in my car on the way to one of the games, too.

I’m really happy with where our team is, the chemistry we have on the field and in the clubhouse. I want to get it going, have a great year. Once I have that first at-bat out of the way, and get rid of the butterflies, it’s on. I can’t wait.    

And away we go

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This is the start of what I hope will be long-running relationship with fans at MLB.com. I’m looking forward to passing along to you on a weekly basis my thoughts and ideas, insights into the game, my take on events of the day, whatever is relevant. I think it’s important to make a connection with fans and keep it, because that relationship is vital to the health of the game we all love.

I feel blessed to be in a position to represent a great game and a great organization. That’s why I’ll often use “we” in the blog, since I’ll be speaking in many respects for teammates, hoping to promote our game, get more people involved.

To get this going, we’d like to start with inviting you to help us create a name, a title, for this blog. We’re asking for suggestions in the comments bar at the bottom of the blog. This is going to be an interactive process, so we might as well get it moving in that direction right away.

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I am thrilled to be wearing an Angels uniform, playing in a great environment with a first-class organization. My first year in Anaheim had some great moments with 100 wins, most in the Majors, even if it didn’t end the way we all wanted. This season we’ll try to deliver six winning months again along with a happier ending in October. I am convinced we have the talent and the drive to get it done. Now it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.

Before we get into that, though, I’d like to talk a little bit about one of my passions off the field: getting young people out of their houses and outside, using their imaginations and creativity the way I did as a kid growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in some pretty rough circumstances.

I was always outside, using my athletic ability in some way in our neighborhoods. If I wasn’t playing catch with a baseball or football, I was riding a bike five miles to another neighborhood, then riding it back. I like to say I got my speed running from a dog, and I got my jumping ability leaping over a fence to get away from a dog. My throwing ability came from trying to hit trees with rocks. We were always outside competing in some way. It concerns me now that so few kids are doing that. Too many of our parks are empty, quiet. 

With the technology we have today, too many kids are spending too much time playing video games, watching TV. It’s a fast-food culture, and it’s not good for our kids’ health. They need to be outside, developing their minds and their bodies in healthy ways. When I was a kid and wanted to be like Tony Dorsett or Andre Dawson or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I’d be doing it on a sandlot or a playground. Now kids are doing it with video games, and it’s just not the same. We have all these kids who are obese, and it’s a function of society, of spending all this time sitting in their houses.

That’s why it’s been so important to me with the Torii Hunter Project to work with kids, to build Little League fields, get kids outside playing games. It might not get a kid to the Major Leagues or the NBA or NFL, but it’s going to make them healthier and more productive in their lives. Even my own kids try to stay inside, but I’ll close the door and lock it. I tell them to go outside and play a game, any game. Invent one if you have to, but do something. I don’t want my kids inside the house all day.

Well, that’s a start. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover in the weeks ahead, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

So, when you get a minute, use your imagination — it’s one of your best resources — and help us come up with a name for this blog.

I’ll check in next week, and hopefully by then we’ll have a title that we think represents what we’re trying to do here.

Stay active, and stay positive.

My best, Torii

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