A View From Studio 3: Meet Calhoun
Angels' leadoff man inspired by a pure love of the game
He plays the game the way you and I would play it if we were given the chance. All out. Hard-nosed. The kind of guy who looks like he'd eat glass if it meant coming away with a win. He's a big kid living his dream in the Major Leagues on a World Series contender. Call him "old school" or "blue collar" and he considers it a compliment. Meet the Angels' 26-year-old right fielder Kole Calhoun.
"I just grew up loving to play baseball," Calhoun says. "Always wanting to play hard. Trying to be the best. I'm not as talented as some of these guys that we run out here night in and night out.
"You gotta make up for it in other ways. You can always hustle. You can always play hard. A lot of people, especially here in Anaheim, appreciate that."
No doubt they appreciate more than just the effort. The results have been fantastic, too. The former Arizona State Sun Devil has enjoyed a breakout season hitting leadoff for Mike Scioscia's club. Calhoun ranks among the best in numerous categories from the leadoff spot. His numbers are comparable to guys like Carlos Gomez, Brian Dozier, Nick Markakis and Brett Gardner, yet only a portion of the attention. Think about it. When you're a tablesetter for Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, guess it seems reasonable that you may not grab the headlines too often.
"It's absolutely fantastic. Both those guys are extremely talented," Calhoun points out. "Playing next to Trout, it's a fun outfield to be a part of especially with [Josh] Hamilton on the other side. And Albert, I think I have three assists this year from Albert cutting balls off and back picking guys at first base. They're some of the best players of a generation and to play alongside those guys is definitely one of the coolest things."
So here we are, in early August and the Angels are a near-lock to appear in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. But just making a postseason run isn't enough. The dream of winning the whole thing is one Calhoun has carried with him since childhood.
That dream predates his teenage years when his hometown D-backs won the World Series in 2001. No surprise Calhoun mentions the left-handed-hitting outfielder Luis Gonzalez as one of his favorites from that club. But also the lesser-known Danny Bautista. A player Calhoun recalls played hard all time.
"I've been dreaming about it since I was a kid so you hear all the stories about the postseason from the guys who have been there and there's nothing like it. That makes you want it more," he said. "I feel like once we get there, why stop there? Everybody wants that championship. There are guys who continue to play year in and year out for that elusive championship."
Calhoun has an awareness many young players often lack. He understands how special a postseason opportunity would be. Just as he understood, years ago, how unique an opportunity it was for his grandfather to see him play college baseball. It's one of the reasons Calhoun choose Arizona State.
"He never consistently got to watch me play baseball. After junior college I had the opportunity to go to Arizona State. I wasn't going to that up," he said. "He bought season tickets and came to every single game we played at home.
"Think it was something pretty special for him. It was pretty special for my family. It was like icing on the cake."
Since the beginning, Calhoun has been surrounded by positive influences. In fact, it's safe to say he may not be a Major Leaguer if not for the lessons and examples set by his family. Calhoun credits his parents for teaching him his work ethic.
"My parents are a big part of how I think now and how I am as a man and how I play the game. They're just great people. They've worked hard for everything they have. That's how I've always been.
"Hopefully I live half as good a life as they have."
Good chance that come October, Calhoun's life and career may get a whole lot better.