For Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun, Opening Day means another chance to expand his role with his big league club by finding a way on base any way he can.
The former Arizona State slugger ran onto the big league scene in 2014, appearing in 127 games and hit .272 with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs. Some were surprised by the success.
Calhoun was not.
“That was the plan. You set goals for yourself and you try to achieve them. I wanted to work hard to make a major league roster,” Calhoun said. “I wasn’t surprised I was where I was. Hard work pays off.”
It was business as usual for Calhoun, and that success and mindset started in Tempe. The Buckeye-native hit .317 in two seasons with the Sun Devils and might as well been the mayor of Omaha. In two College World Series appearances, Calhoun hit .434 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. What he learned in that program helped expedite his time in the minors and find success at the major league level.
“It’s no lie they are an elite Division-I program. I think that’s a place where you go and learn your work ethic and learn what it takes to be successful,” Calhoun said. “Once you get that opportunity at pro ball, you have that background of being a successful baseball player and carry that on to the next level.”
The 100th Sun Devil to make the big leagues found a home in an unfamiliar spot in the lineup.
In college, Calhoun was the thumper in the middle of lineup, hitting 29 home runs and driving in 112 runs in two years. But thanks to his ability to hit for average as well as power and a disciplined eye at the plate (he led the Pac-10 with 64 walks his senior year), Calhoun became a table-setter for the likes of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols as a leadoff hitter in 2014.
“I didn’t want to change my game too much; I’ve always been a good on-base guy. I wanted to get on base in front of the guys behind me,” Calhoun said. “I took the simplest approach to the whole leadoff thing. (It) really paid off. We scored a lot of runs, we won a lot of games so hopefully we just keep that going.”
Standing in right field and surrounded by Pujols and Trout, Calhoun has been positioned, literally, to learn from some of the best in baseball.
“I feel like we have guys around this clubhouse that have had successful big league careers. You try to pick their brain and figure out some things that work for you,” Calhoun said.
“Everybody’s game is a little bit different, so you have to mold it to yourself. But you get some ideas on how to be successful from the guys walking in this room.”
On the verge of the 2015 season, Calhoun hopes to continue to mold himself into an accomplished leadoff hitter, becoming the source of plenty of runs, and potentially wins, for the Angels lineup.