Ten years later, Angels celebrate like it's 2002

Ten years later, Angels celebrate like it's 2002

Ten years later, Angels celebrate like it's 2002
ANAHEIM -- As the 2002 World Series team reunited on the field at Angel Stadium on Saturday, a 10-minute tribute video of their magical season showed up on the JumboTron. It ended, of course, with Kenny Lofton lofting a lazy fly ball to center fielder Darin Erstad in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Watching that play, Erstad has always had one singular thought.

"Thank the Lord I didn't drop it," he said, "because it would've changed the course of my life in a big way."

Instead, he caught it. And instead, he changed the course of life around these parts in a very big way, giving this city its first and only baseball championship and elevating this franchise to a whole new level.

On Saturday, more than 25 former players and coaches gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of that team, getting honored in a pregame ceremony and gaining induction into the Angels Hall of Fame.

"It's just great to see everybody again," said former right fielder Tim Salmon, who now serves as an analyst on the local affiliate, FOX Sports West. "It doesn't feel like 10 years."

"It's just awesome," ex-shortstop David Eckstein said. "Because this club right here was the true definition of a team."

Present from that team were Troy Percival, the dominant closer who saved three of the four World Series wins against the Giants; Garret Anderson, who finished fourth in American League Most Valuable Player voting and had the decisive three-run double in the season's final game; Troy Glaus, the World Series MVP.

And so many more -- Eckstein, Salmon, Jarrod Washburn, Scot Shields, Bengie Molina, Brendan Donnelly, Joe Maddon among them.

"It's a special group of guys," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who was able to catch up with his former players at a reception late Friday night. "What I sense in being around them is that bonding you would expect from being on a world-championship team is there. Those guys, they were excited to see each other, to talk about what they had accomplished, and it's great to see how their lives have gone."

All of them donned their '02 jerseys during an on-field ceremony that saw Salmon and Eckstein provide speeches and former general manager Bill Stoneman throw out the first pitch to Scioscia. One by one, they each came out of the dugout to be introduced.

Except Scott Spiezio, who jogged out of the the right-field corner, where he dumped his memorable Game 6 homer.

"It's something no one can ever take away from us," Spiezio said. "It's so cool that we're all here to be able to share it with the fans."

The 2002 club overachieved, becoming somewhat of a Cinderella team with the run it had. So far, though, this 2012 team has underachieved, going through second-half struggles that had it 7 1/2 games out in the division by the time Saturday's first pitch was thrown.

But both teams did begin the season at 6-14, and Eckstein swears he sees other resemblances.

"I think the similarity is that right now they're kind of in a fight for their life," the all-heart shortstop said. "This is a do-or-die situation in the sense that all these games are very big, and just trying to find a way to get into the playoffs. That was us.

"I see a lot of those characteristics with this club. I expect them to battle back, and especially with this new Wild Card system, if they get in, I expect them to be very dangerous."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.