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.
I called my mom today to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. I said, “I’m going to try to hit a home run for you, Mom.” I didn’t do that, but I took one away.
I’m pretty sure she’ll be happy with that.
Making a catch like that is a feeling that’s so good, so awesome, it’s hard to describe. I thought I had a chance when Miguel Olivo got into that ball, but I had a lot of ground to cover, because I was shading him over toward right center. He’s got some serious power.
There’s a lot that goes into making a play like that. You have to get to the wall, but not too close, and you have to time it just right. After the game, I went and watched the replay in the video room with Justin Speier, and he said I had some serious hang time on it.
I felt like I could have dunked, two hands, over Shaq. I felt like a wide receiver did a slant, and I took him out.
Man, that was awesome. It’s a very special win, coming back the way we did with three runs in the seventh, the bullpen doing a great job. Something like that can do a lot for a team.
When the game ended, Bobby Abreu and Gary Matthews Jr. came over and I was expecting the usual high-fives, but they both threw themselves into me and we had a three-way hug out there. It was just an expression of how great it felt, for all of us.
That’s the kind of moment you live for as an athlete, to challenge yourself and make a play like that, with so much on the line — and then to celebrate with your teammates.
I’ve made my share of catches like that, and this one ranks pretty high. But the best is the one on Barry Bonds in the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee, when I took one away from him. That was on the big stage, my first All-Star Game, and it was an incredible feeling.
I take great pride in playing center field at a high level. I’m aware of some of the stat guys who are saying I’ve lost something, I’m not as good as I once was. Well, I just wanted to let you know I’m still me. I still can play the game. I know how to play center field. I still feel like I’m one of the best.
That’s not being cocky. That’s confidence.
People ask me what it takes to make a play like that, and it’s hard to describe. It’s just something that’s in you. You have to have the athletic ability, first, and then instincts come into play. I try to teach my sons how to do it, and they get a little frustrated. Maybe they’ll catch on.
It’s like when Torii Jr. just missed a home run, the ball bouncing off the top of the fence. I told him to be patient, that he’ll be getting stronger as he gets older, and those balls will start flying over the fence.
There were some great signs for us this weekend. We swept a really good club in the Royals. I like what they’re doing. They play the game hard, and they play it right. Coco Crisp was a great pickup for them in center field, and they’ve got a lot of talent there. Big Olivo, he’s something to watch. He’s got a cannon for an arm, he can run, and he can put a charge in a ball.
He just hit that one in the wrong place today — and I was able to get there.
There was another play I made earlier in the game that was unusual. They had a man on first, Mike Jacobs, and Alberto Callaspo hit a sinking line drive. I came up and played it on a hop and got rid of it as quickly as I could, and we got the force out at second.
There’s an art to that. It takes a lot of practice. I threw that one three-quarters, and sometimes, if necessary, I’ll come sidearm with a throw to get it there in a hurry.
I grew up playing shortstop, and that’s how I play center field — like a shortstop. I love making throws on the run, holding guys from taking an extra base. After the catch, they had a man on first and Coco hit a single to center, and I was able to keep the guy at second by getting to the ball and getting it back in as fast as I could.
There are so many elements to playing center field. It’s my position, and I love everything about it.
Today was a great day to be in center field — and to be an Angel.