Team's career leader in several offensive categories honored
By Marcia C. Smith
Special to MLB.com |
Garret Anderson has always found more comfort in the shadows than in the spotlight. He was a reluctant superstar during his 17 Major League seasons -- his first 15 with the Angels, who will induct him into their Hall of Fame before Saturday's game at 6:35 p.m. PT vs. the Yankees.
Anderson will become the 14th player to join the Angels Hall of Fame. He was one of the most productive hitters in franchise history, wearing the Halos' No. 16 from 1994-2008 and quietly climbing to the top of the club's all-time lists in games (2,013), at-bats (7,989), runs (1,024), hits (2,368), total bases (3,743), extra-base hits (796), doubles (489) and RBIs (1,292).
Anderson's bases-clearing three-run double vs. the Giants was the decisive blow in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.
"That's my proudest achievement, that championship," he said, "because I could share it. I was part of a team that put the Angels on the map."
Anderson wrapped up his career with the Braves in 2009 and the Dodgers in '10, with his final game coming on Aug. 6, 2010. He retired with a .293 career batting average, 287 home runs, three All-Star Game appearances ('02, '03 and '05), two American League Silver Slugger Awards ('02 and '03), and a World Series ring with the Angels in '02.
Anderson didn't leave baseball. It told him his career was over.
"It made the decision [to retire] easy when all 30 teams didn't call," he said.
So Anderson gracefully "moved on," making the announcement in a conference call, without any fanfare or a farewell tour.
"I never sought the spotlight, and I really struggle with the spotlight," said Anderson, 44, from his home in Irvine, Calif. "But getting this [Angels Hall of Fame] honor does remind me of baseball. I'm very appreciative of the honor and thankful for the time I've had playing and having been an Angel."
Anderson's call to the Angels' Hall came a few months ago from team president John Carpino and owner Arte Moreno. It went to his voice mail, and Anderson had to call them back to learn the news.
"The inclusion of Garret into the Angels Hall of Fame will be a special moment for our organization and a fan base fortunate to watch his numerous contributions in an Angels uniform," said Moreno, who has welcomed seven players and the 2002 World Series team into the club's Hall since he bought the team in '03.
"Garret was the model of consistency during his 15 seasons with the Angels, and we are proud he will be joining this distinguished group of Angels."
Moreno congratulated Anderson personally when the former outfielder was most recently at Angel Stadium, which still feels like home.
Anderson has been working on his speech this week, reflecting on the career and the team that selected him in the fourth round of the 1990 Draft out of Kennedy High in Granada Hills, Calif.
For Anderson, baseball has been in his past "in a space like something in a box on a shelf," he said. "Baseball -- it's almost like I never did it. It was fleeting, like that moment when you open gifts on Christmas. Once it's over, it's gone."
Anderson's transition into life after baseball has been smooth, because being a player "wasn't who I am as a person," he said. "It was never my identity."
Anderson's baseball memorabilia -- with the exception of the four framed jerseys in his weight room and the half-dozen photos in the family's game room -- is buried in his garage. He hasn't picked up a ball or glove since playing catch with his son, Trey (Garret Anderson III) before the start of this past high school baseball season.
When Spring Training has arrived each year, even his first one as an ex-player in 2011, "I never once, since I stopped playing and the day I was released by L.A., wanted to go back, not one iota," Anderson said. "I was ready to move forward in my life and get back to what I had missed while playing."
After all those years of the baseball routine, Anderson quickly embraced and cherished family life with wife, Teresa, and his three children, Brianne, a Chapman University sophomore; Bailey, a high school senior; and Trey, a high school sophomore.
Anderson helped with homework. He shuttled Brianne to gymnastics, Bailey to volleyball and Trey to basketball and baseball practices.
"My routine now is whatever routine my kids have," he said, laughing. "My only hobby is my family."
And Anderson has gone back to college, taking one general education course per semester at Irvine Valley College, because he needed the mental stimulation and values getting a degree. He made quick work of the math classes and is now deep into reading and writing.
Anderson is hardly recognized these days. He's still quiet, polite, shy and "introverted," which led some fans to think this understated gentleman ballplayer was aloof during his playing days.
When Anderson goes to Trey's baseball practices, he's just another proud baseball dad. Trey's teammates were too young to remember the slugger "G.A.," who steadily anchored the left field that has become a Bermuda Triangle for position players in recent seasons.
"Some fans will still come up to me," Anderson said, "And when they do, I'm happy to share the stories or talk about the team."
When fans ask about this season's struggles, Anderson points to the injuries that have devastated the pitching staff. He recalls his 2003 season with the defending champion Halos, when he was one of the few position players not to log time on the disabled list.
"Sometimes you just got to get through the rough years," Anderson said. "And think about the highlights each day and the promise of the future."
On Saturday, this Angels great will get the much-deserved spotlight for his contributions to the franchise's history. And then Anderson will slip back into the shadows, as always, with grace.
Marcia C. Smith is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.