Results tagged ‘ Twins ’

Even wet, just happy to be here

We’re just happy to be here in the Big Apple, rain or shine. It’s been coming down all day, and a little chill in the air. Hopefully, we’ll get enough decent weather to play some baseball and get back home in good shape.

Facing the Yankees, the favorites, is kind of like facing the Red Sox. People said we weren’t supposed to win that series, but we had other ideas.

We were happy to play the Red Sox. We never said one word that we didn’t want to play the Red Sox. That all came from the media. We wanted to play anybody. We’re just happy to still be playing with a shot at the ring.

When I was younger and with the Twins, it was awesome going out and playing center field at Yankee Stadium in the postseason. They beat us in 2003 and 2004, but we were all minimum wage guys.

This team is a little different. We’ve got an owner, Arte Moreno, who wants to win as much as we do. When we went out and got Mark Teixeira last year at the Trade Deadline, I screamed, I was so happy.

Teixeira is the enemy, of course, but he’s a good dude. I really liked him when we were teammates, and I think he helped guys with his approach. Bobby Abreu has been doing that for us this year, helping not just the young guys but everybody. He has great at-bats. You don’t want to go up and swing at the first pitch after he’s had a seven-pitch at-bat. It trickles down, the domino effect.

We have a lot of leaders on this team, veterans who have been around, guys like Chone Figgins, Vladdy “Mula” Guerrero, John Lackey, Brian Fuentes. And Bobby is one of them. He’s a great leader.

People think he’s quiet, but Bobby’s not as mellow as you think. He is funny. He has everybody cracking up in the clubhouse. He’s so much fun off the field, but when he steps between those lines, he’s focused, man.

As for the Yankees, what can you say that hasn’t already been said? They always have one of the best lineups. It’s nothing different than in the past. You look at my old buddy CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Tex . . . so many great players. Those guys are impressive over there. I like them as a team. They play the game right, the way we do.

As for the Angels beating the Yankees in the playoffs twice before, in 2002 and 2005, I wasn’t here, so I don’t have a lot to offer about that. We played them even this year, five wins apiece. There was a lot of scoring, a lot of yelling, and some quiet times. Yankee Stadium, old or new, it’s always exciting to play here.

As a kid, you grow up watching games at Yankee Stadium, and how here you are, in the postseason. The regular season doesn’t matter now. It’s all about what you do now.

I’m sure I’ll be as excited as ever running out to center field in Game 1, all that adrenaline pumping. It’s a dream come true, playing on this field, in the ALCS, with a chance to beat the Yankees. I think we can do. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and we can go out and see what happens.

How sweet it is!

I’ve never been a part of a game that felt any better than this. The way we came back, the way we just refused to go down, it was just amazing to be in the middle of something like that.

I can’t tell you how good I feel for Vladimir Guerrero. This has been a very rough season for him, with all the injuries he’s had to overcome. To see him deliver like he did, driving that game-winning hit against Jonathan Papelbon, was unbelievable.

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This guy Vladdy is a Hall of Famer in my book. He’s an all-time great hitter, and a great teammate. I think that’s one of the reasons why everyone was so thrilled to see him get that big, big hit. Because he’s been so great for so long, and people were starting to doubt him. Who’s doubting Vladdy now? Who’s saying he can’t hit a good fastball?

There were so many big moments. Erick Aybar got it started with his two-out hit, then Chone Figgins worked a huge walk against Papelbon. Bobby Abreu comes up, and he’s a guy you want hitting in that situation, cool as can be. He drives one off the monster, and now we’re only one run down.

I was ready to hit, looking forward to it, but they walked me intentionally. Was I surprised? I can’t really say. Their manager, Terry Francona, knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy.

So is my man, Mike Scioscia – manager of the year! No doubt.

I’m happy they did walk me now, because of the way it turned out, but I really wanted to hit in that situation. It’s what you live for as an athlete, and that’s why we’re all so happy for Vlad.

The big man came through in a big way. Hits don’t get any bigger than that one. He’s not a guy who shows much emotion, but he was smiling over there at first base like you rarely see him. I was pointing over to him from second base, and I could just feel his joy. It was one of those magical moments.

This team has so much character, I can’t say enough about the heart of these guys. We have been playing for Nick Adenhart all season, and I know he’s proud of us now. Nick loved the game, everything about it, and this was as good as it gets, beating the Red Sox in Boston. I’ve got a lot of respect for that team over there, how good those guys are. That’s what makes this so gratifying.

No more talk about curses!

We beat the Red Sox in their house!

As for Nick, I like what our hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher, said. If Nick’s up there writing the script, it’s a masterpiece.

We’re going to celebrate this, but we know we’ve still got work to do. We don’t want this to end. 

The Twins, my old team, are still alive. I’m not going to lie. I’m pulling for those guys against the Yankees. Hey, I raised some of those guys on the Twins team. How could I not be pulling for them?

Whoever we play, we’re going to be ready. We’ve got everything we need on this team, young guys with energy, smart veterans, pitching, hitting, defense, speed. And athletes. Man, we’ve got some athletes. We just have to go out and keep doing what we do.

We got the first three wins. Now we need four more to get to where we want to be, the Fall Classic.

Enjoy the ride, everybody. I guarantee you we are. I just need to find some goggles that keep the champagne out of my eyes.

This is what we play for — a shot at the ring

This is my sixth postseason, and it’s a whole new season. It doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season. It’s all about who wants it more. You see guys who hit 30, 40 homers, drive in 100 runs, and they don’t do a thing in postseason. You’ve got pitchers who dominate in the regular season and don’t win in the postseason. It’s the same game, but different. 

I think guys here learned from last year, losing in four games to Boston. I’m not saying any names, but I can hear it in their voices, see it in their eyes. It’s totally different. The younger guys have that bulldog in them now. It’s what I was waiting to see, and I’m seeing it now.

I love this time of year. It takes me back to high school football in Pine Bluff, Ark., when I just wanted to go out and hit guys. I still want to hit — just a different kind of hitting.

Even though it’s the same game, the adrenaline and hype of it take you up to another level. You’ve got to block it out, go out and have fun. I don’t think anything needs to be said. We finished off on a good note, winning seven of the last eight, and we’re carrying that momentum into the postseason.

One thing about the playoffs – you don’t need any coffee. You don’t want to get too boosted up. I hurt my knee jumping up and down on a play last year against the Red Sox where I thought I was safe – and I wasn’t. The adrenaline was going crazy on me. I’m drinking straight water. Pure adrenaline is going to take over for you.

My whole focus is on the Red Sox, of course, but I’ve got to say, that Twins-Tigers playoff game was awesome. I watched it at home, and I caught myself every once in a while cheering for the guys I used to play with in Minnesota. They battled through it and got it done, and to do it without Justin Morneau, one of the best pure hitters in the game, and Joe Crede, that was impressive. But I know those guys, how much heart they have, how they battle.

Now they go on to New York. In 2003 and 2004, the Yankees put it on us. Hopefully, they can get it done. I texted most of the guys after it was over and told them how happy I was for them. It was a roller-coaster ride, and I was really excited for Alexi Casilla, getting the big hit, and of course for Joe Mauer and the rest of the guys.

Now they just go on straight adrenaline. The Twins probably have momentum, coming off a playoff game, a great win, but that’s a good team they’re playing.

The Twins are probably the closest team to us in their style. They’ve got a batting champion in Mauer, and they always play hard. I think we might have a couple more athletes. Put us on a football field, and we’d win. We have some old quarterbacks on this team – John Lackey, Jeff Mathis, Scott Kazmir, myself. Mathis would be our QB. He was a division I recruit, by Florida State.

I’ve got a lot of confidence in Lackey in Game 1.  John’s a bulldog who wants the ball every fifth day. He’s not afraid to throw strikes. The passion he has on the mound, when he comes into the dugout, either he’s upset or excited. I always like our chances when he’s out there.

As for our offense, you can’t say enough about what Bobby Abreu has brought to this team. Bobby’s whole thing is swing at strikes – whether it’s the first pitch or the last pitch you see. It’s simple, but it’s hard, especially for young guys and a hitter like Vladimir Guerrero, who’s always been so aggressive. Vladdy’s Vladdy. He’s been playing and doing it his way for a long time. And he’s a Hall of Famer.

Bobby definitely had a positive impact on me. I’ve been playing for years, but I’m getting better. Besides his approach on the field, another thing Bobby brings is the way he prepares himself. He gets here early, does his running, lifts his weights. Guys see that, and they want to be like Bobby. They know he’s always on the field.

The way Bobby carries himself, that’s another thing he brings to the clubhouse. He’s always relaxed, always singing. He’s a bad singer, but that’s OK. He’s suave. One of a kind.

I really like the way we set up with Chone Figgins and Bobby up top, then the rest of us. Those two guys know how to get on base and run the bases. Guys like Vlad, Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales, we’ve got some bangers in the middle. We have a lot of weapons.

I think we’re ready. Now it’s time to go out and get it done.

 

 

Emulating the great Ken Griffey Jr.

We’re in Seattle, facing the Mariners, and it always takes me back to 1999, my second year in the bigs with the Twins when I finally got to play against a man I admired so much – the great Ken Griffey Jr.

My first at-bat that day at the old Kingdome, I struck out to end the inning. As I was running out on the field, he was running off. He kind of came toward me and said, “Hey, man, keep working hard and have fun with it. Enjoy the game.” That really stuck with me. He was giving me a message. I was impressed that he did that. It really meant a lot to me. And still does.

That’s what Ken Griffey Jr. brought to the game, that ability to have a good time while putting on a show with his incredible talent. He had his cap on backwards and was always laughing, enjoying himself. Kirby Puckett was like that, too, and that’s what I wanted to be like.

I took on that same kind of personality, showing my emotions and expressing how much I enjoy what I’m doing. I’ve carried it with me through my career. It’s a game we’re playing, and I think people want to see us enjoying ourselves. Ken Griffey Jr. showed how to do it. He was always a bright light out there.

I patterned my game and my personality after those two guys, Junior and Kirby. It was one of the smartest things I ever did.

Griffey always had the most beautiful swing in all of baseball. There was nothing like it. Everybody wanted to be Ken Griffey Jr. When I was in the Minor Leagues and struggling, I tried taking his swing over to the right side. It didn’t work quite as well, of course. But it was fun, trying to use that Griffey swing.

When you think about what he’s done – 625 home runs, the highlight plays with the glove, and think about all the time he’s missed with injuries – he’s one of the greats of all time.

I’ve tried to follow in the footsteps of Ken Griffey and Kirby Puckett in center field, and now maybe there are young guys watching me and wanting to play the way I do. If that’s the case, it’s an honor to carry on that tradition.

When I was a young guy, I used to watch everything Griffey did, especially in center field. He was The Man. We had video of him, and I studied how he’d take straight angles to the ball – A to B, not A to C. I wanted to do everything the way he did, because he was the master out there.

I never took a homer away from him – he usually gave you no chance with those monster drives he’d hit. He’d usually pull the ball, too. I did rob him of a few hits, doubles and triples. He’d just stand there and look at me. You know I loved that. The respect I have for that guy is huge.

Any time I had a chance, I asked him questions, just like I always did with Kirby. That’s how you learn. Ask questions. I always tell the younger players not to be shy, to ask me anything they want. That’s what I’m here for, to help out. In this game, you can never have enough information.

There are a lot of really talented young center fielders now, and it’s great to see. Adam Jones in Baltimore, he calls me every week. We talk about the game, life outside the game, anything he wants. He’s playing the game the way I did at 24, and when he’s 34, he’ll be playing like I am now.

Curtis Granderson in Detroit, we’ve gotten close. He’s my guy. Grady Sizemore is cool, and a great talent. Matt Kemp with the Dodgers, I love that guy. I like being like a big brother to all these guys.

It kind of runs from Griffey and Kirby through me and now through all these young guys coming up. We’re all connected in that way. It’s always been an honor to be on the same field with Ken Griffey Jr.

It might be winding down for him now, but you still see that smile, that love of being in the uniform and being on the field.

The man is a legend, and I’m definitely a better player and person for wanting to be like him.

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.

 

    

 

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.
 

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.
 

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.  

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.    

Dream season continues

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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.

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