Interview conducted by David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
One of the few bright spots for the Angels in 2010 was the emergence of a gifted centerfielder, Peter Bourjos. His arrival had an immediate impact on the team. Not only did Torii Hunter move from centerfield (where he had won 9 Gold Glove Awards) to right field to accommodate the rookie, but the overall defense and pitching improved dramatically. In just 49 starts, Peter finished with 149 put outs and 10 assists. Projecting those numbers to a full season, Peter would have easily led all American League centerfielders in both defensive statistics if he had played for a full season. His aggressive and impressive defense quickly made him a fan favorite, as did his speed on the basepaths.
AngelsWin.com recorded this interview with Chris Bourjos on August 30th, 2010, right after Chris just watched his son play a series against Baltimore in Anaheim. Chris is a Major League scout for the Baltimore Orioles, and former Major League outfielder for the Giants. Chris took the time to speak with AngelsWin.com to give the fans his impressions as a dad and as a scout on seeing his son play. Chris is easy to talk to and a class act. He is a proud father and an expert on the game, and has a unique perspective on seeing his son succeed at the Major League level.
AngelsWin.com: What was it like seeing your son this weekend playing in Anaheim?
Chris Bourjos: It’s always exciting to watch Pete play. Obviously we’re a lot more excited at this level than at any other level that he’s played at since he’s played Little League or soccer or football. Me and my wife and my daughter, we’ve always looked forward to that day to watch, whether it’s soccer, football or baseball, whatever it is. Playing at home in Angels stadium is hard to describe. It’s pretty special.
AngelsWin.com: What would your scouting report be on Peter?
Chris Bourjos: Oh G-d, I’m not going to go there. (laughs) When people ask me that, I don’t even want to report on my own son. I don’t even send in a report. I can tell you this: I think that defensively he can be as good as anybody. I think his speed brings a lot to the game, both defensively and offensively. I think he’s got plus instincts for the game. I think he’s a baseball player. He knows how to play. The hitting part, that’s really where I don’t want to go because hitting is so hard to judge. I think that he is going to figure it out. He’s figured it out at every level. Although I know that this is the level—the highest level that there is, and many, many hitters don’t figure it out for whatever reason. You know that they have the ability to hit—the physical ability—the hand eye coordination, but sometimes it just takes a lot more. I’ve said that about a lot of hitters along the way. As a dad, I think he can make it. As a scout I think he can make it. But, I’ve been wrong before. It is just day-in and day-out these hitters face good pitching, from the starters down to the closers. There’s never what I would call an easy at-bat. It’s very tough. That’s why guys get paid a lot of money to hit .280 in the Major Leagues. I guess I did answer your question. (laughs) I think he can do it and I hope he will. I hope sometimes more than I think sometimes because he’s my son.
AngelsWin.com: Let’s talk about that conflict. You’re there in the stands. You’re scout. You can’t show a lot of emotional support, much like in the press box.
Chris Bourjos: You know I never really do. I guess in soccer I did a lot. I paced up and down—I didn’t sit there. One of the very first times I ever jumped up when Peter did something in baseball was not long ago, a few weeks ago. It was when he hit the inside-the-park homerun. I was sitting with my wife and a very close friend of mine that scouts for the Cubs. I think going into the third base I jumped up with the rest crowd. That’s my son! My son! Everyone was laughing at me because they had never seen that kind of emotion. I mean the emotion going on inside. Obviously I’m not neutral when my son is playing. But I try to stay neutral and look professional while at work.
AngelsWin.com: It seems like the League is learning about Peter’s speed and range in the outfield, but they haven’t picked up on his arm too. He has five assists already. Are there any other dimensions to his games that the fans might not be as familiar with?
Chris Bourjos: With his assists, he definitely has arm strength. There’s no question about it. But I think the reason why he gets them, and will continue to get them, is because he charges the ball very aggressively, and he has the speed to do that. He uses that speed. He will always charge that base hit hard. And the other thing is that he will hit the cutoff man. If you hit the cutoff man, you will end up with some assists. Not just throwing the guy out at the plate like he did yesterday—although Jeff Mathis did a great job on that and he did a great job on the ball in Minnesota—he will tell you that. When you hit the cutoff man, sometimes the cutoff guy relays the throw to maybe a guy rounding first, and the outfielder will get credited with an assist. He will get those kinds because he knows that it’s important to be accurate. Defensively, he’s not afraid to play shallow. He’s going to try and take everything he can get. He loves to do that. He loves patrolling centerfield.
AngelsWin.com: Were you surprised that the Angels moved Torii Hunter for him?
Chris Bourjos: Yes. Not because I didn’t have any confidence that he could play out there, but I didn’t think that it would be that quick. I even thought the day when we were in Baltimore that he got called up, and we found out that he was playing, and that he was starting in centerfield, I assumed that either Torii Hunter had the day off or was DHing. And then when I found out that Torii was in right field I thought, “Oh, geez!” I just thought that maybe they’d start off by putting him in left and then in right and then a day in center and ease him in slow instead of putting him in there on the first day. (laughs) I guess I’m kind of looking at that more of a dad thinking “Don’t do that to my kid!” (laughs) It was pretty cool. Everyone seemed to be fine with it. Torii has been more supportive than anybody.
AngelsWin.com: I personally loved Torii’s reaction—that it was anything to do to make the team better and to win. Has Torii been mentoring Peter?
Chris Bourjos: Oh yes. I can’t pick out anything in particular, but there’s no question that he has. You can see them talking between the game. And, Peter has told me too. Torii has told him “If you have a question about a hitter coming up, or you think I’m not in the right spot just call over and let me know.” There’s no question that he gets all the help that he can or needs from Torii Hunter. There’s no question about that at all.
AngelsWin.com: What was going through your head the moment you found out your son was called up?
Chris Bourjos: Oh G-d! You know, it’s almost unbelievable. I know he deserves it. I knew he earned it. But at that point, we were thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be until September 1st, which was fine. I guess for all of my family it was the dream come true. I remember how I felt when I got called up to the big leagues. It was the same dream that I was thinking about since Little League. But, to have your son get called up is more important and more exciting then when I was called up to the big leagues.
AngelsWin.com: One of the things that Angels fans often debate, especially since the Angels draft a lot of high school players, is whether or not a high school player should or should not sign. As a parent of a player and a scout, what are your thoughts?
Chris Bourjos: When I first started scouting, I was with the Toronto Blue Jays. I scouted for them for 18 years, and I was an area scout for 12 of those 18 years. We were a lot like the Angels. In fact, we were probably the team that took more high school players than any. And that’s sort of the way I grew up in scouting. You get the high school player—the good high school athlete. We took the kid with tools, who can run and throw, and who might develop into a really quality good Major Leaguer. And those are the ones that the Blue Jays always went after. And I was always a big believer in that. In most cases I still am. I was with my son for a couple of reasons. My son was a good athlete and he could run. And I knew that he was going to get a little bigger and a little stronger. And, I also knew that if baseball didn’t work out for him (and I always knock on wood because the main reason is that he loves to play so much) he would succeed in whatever he decides to do because that’s the type of kid he is. He will get his college degree. There are some players that if they don’t go to school right now, they may never go back to school. It’s almost the opposite of what people think. I think that the kids that like school and are good students and have the opportunity to sign out of high school and get some money are the ones who should sign because those are the kids who will go back to school. The ones who don’t like school, maybe they should go to school and play baseball because baseball might get them through college. It’s almost the opposite of thinking of what a scouts and people think. But that’s what I always thought. Because I know with myself, I’ll be honest—and my kids know this—I never liked school. But, because of baseball, that was my only way to keep playing baseball. I was not signed or drafted out of high school. I went to college to play baseball and then I got through college because I wanted to keep playing baseball. But, if I had been offered $5,000, $10,000 to sign out of high school, I might have taken it and then I probably never would have gotten through school. But Pete has no problem with school. It’s not that he loves it, but, he’ll get it done if he has to.
AngelsWin.com: How did the Angels treat you as a family and what were your perceptions of him going through the Minor Leagues?
Chris Bourjos: I can tell you this: Up until this point, and hopefully for the next 15 years, (laughs) the Angels are the perfect place for my son. As far as I’m concerned, without knocking any other organization, I’m not sure that there is a better place for my son to develop as far as managers, coaches, instructors, starting out with Kotchman in Orem and all his managers. He has learned. When he signed, I thought that Peter was a pretty smart baseball player. And I think he was—smarter than most because he’s been around the game. But he has learned a lot from these guys—from just about everybody, every manager. Not just Eric Owens, not just hitting guys, but pitching guys, infield guys. He’s picked everybody’s brains and he’s learned something from everybody. Going to Big League camp early, from Roenicke, Scioscia, Mickey Hatcher. It’s been the best place for him to thrive—no question about it. And I knew that going in that this was going to be the place for my son. But I really didn’t realize just how good it was going to be.
AngelsWin.com: Is there a real family feel for it? Do they keep you in the loop?
Chris Bourjos: The scouts that are responsible for signing him are close friends, John Gracio and Rick Wilson their national cross checker. They’ve been close friends of mine for years. If I needed to talk to them about Peter, then yeah, there’d be no problem. But there’s never been any reason to.
When Pete signed and I remember him going off to Instruction, we talked about it. I said “You know you learned a lot from me, no question. I really believe that. But, I’m a scout. I’m not player development. I’m not a hitting instructor; I’m not an outfield instructor. This is where you really start learning. You listen to these guys and you’ll start learning a lot more.” And I never interfere. He comes home with some different things or calls me on the phone and says that “Jim Eppards or somebody is doing this with his swing . . .” and my answer is “Hey, great!” because he knows that I won’t interfere with it. I think that I can evaluate a hitter, but I’m not sure that I can fix them. When I talk to him, I say “If there is a battle up there with 2 strikes, be aggressive early in the count and keep your head on the ball.” He might have heard me say that two thousand times since he was a little kid. That’s my hitting instruction. (laughs) And when he was younger, I’d throw to him until he didn’t want to hit any more and then we’d hit fungos and I’d say “Pete, are you ready, are we done?” and he’d say “one more, one more.” And we’d stay out there as long as he’d want to stay out there. He’d end up packing me out. (laughs)
AngelsWin.com: With the Angels struggling, especially offensively, a lot of fans think it’s Hatcher’s fault.
Chris Bourjos: No, that’s not really how it goes. To me, and I don’t really have the Angels, but if you lose a hitter like Kendry Morales, that hurts your lineup big-time. He’s right in the middle of your lineup and that affects the hitters around you. That takes pressure off the opposing pitchers. He’s not everything because they have great hitters like Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, but that’s huge when they lost Kendry Morales. The year has not gone right for the Angels. But you know that they are a team that is hoping to win their division. They are going to fix that. Next year in Spring Training they will be one of the favorite teams next year. You know that. Morales will be back, and they will be strong.
AngelsWin.com: Getting back to Peter in the Minor Leagues, fans don’t know about the various injuries that he dealt with as a player. Can you talk about that?
Chris Bourjos: At Orem, he stayed pretty healthy in Orem. In Cedar Rapids he got a torn ligament in his finger and he tried to play with that for a couple of weeks. That was always my biggest concern—always asking him about that every night. Are you okay? Everything good? He said my finger is still sore until finally he kind of pushed the issue a little bit and told them that “I don’t think I can play any more.” He ended up tearing a ligament in his finger. They took care of that and then he got back some time in August.
In Rancho, I just think he had a couple of little things at Rancho. I think he ended up getting a sore groin. Maybe a 7-day there, but not a big deal
But, at Arkansas, he ended up getting a hurt wrist. I think it was June 1st, or maybe the last week of May. He kept playing with that. He played on the All-Star team, but it hurt every night. And then if he had a day off, it felt a little better. And then I knew. Me and my wife were probably the only ones who knew that there was more going on because we know this kid. He played with a fracture in his upper leg in soccer and nobody knew it. He would get sore and then he’d say “I’m okay.” He end up playing a Saturday afternoon game, and run all over the place, and that night it was sore again. So then finally we went to the doctor to get an x-ray and the thing was already healing. So you just don’t know with him. When he had his wrist checked out at the end of the season last year, and they told him it was a torn ligament and that he needed surgery, I wasn’t surprised at all. He tried to hold off. He asked the Angels if he could play on the World Cup team in Europe and then go to the Fall League. He said he’d like to do that, and have the surgery after that. I told him that “Hey Pete, there’s no way that they are going to let you do that!” And three days later he had his surgery.
AngelsWin.com: AngelsWin.com has been very high on Peter Bourjos ever since we first started to see him play. For the past two years, we’ve ranked him as the #3 overall prospect in the Angels organization, and in 2008, we ranked him as the #7 overall prospect. Do you go online to read what is being written about him?
Chris Bourjos: Yes, I do. You have to remember, I’m a dad. So, if I start reading negative things, I stop reading. (laughs) But, there’s a lot of good stuff. The people who write your blogs, or people who write about Pete, I try to read all the positive stuff. But, I tell you, if you play this game . . . think about Alex Rodriguez, he’s one of the best players who ever played, people write bad stuff about him. And I’m like “you’ve got to be kidding me.” If he goes 0 for his last 9, they’re all over him, or whatever, that’s just the nature of the game.
My daughter, though, has you on Facebook. I’m not that familiar with Facebook. I’m on it, but I don’t use it. She gets any kind of update on there. She says “Did you read that?” and I say “No, where was that on.” And she says “AngelsWin.com” and I know the link and go right to your site.
AngelsWin.com: What about the lighter side of Peter. Does he have a girlfriend?
Chris Boujos: Yes. The same one since he was a junior in high school.
AngelsWin.com: What was he like as a kid? Favorite movie?
Chris Bourjos: Movies, I couldn’t tell you. He was a very active kid. He was out kicking the soccer ball around, shooting baskets, playing baseball, doing a lot of that stuff. That’s why he can run, because he was always out running around as a kid. In fact, a lot of times, if there was nobody around, I’d be sitting on the couch, and he’d say “Hey dad, how about some one-on-one?” and I’d look up and I’d say to myself “G-d, I’m tired.” And then I’d say “okay.” But, then we’d be out there shooting baskets or playing a game of one of one-on-one. I’m surprised I’m not in better shape, but I haven’t done much since he’s signed! (laughs)
AngelsWin.com: Do you have a humorous story about him that you can share?
Chris Bourjos: I’ll tell you one that I tell to people a lot. I’ve always thrown to him since he was a kid. When he was little, it was really good because I could throw better when I was younger. But as he was getting older, the demand is higher and I needed to throw harder. So, his senior year, a lot of teams were coming to see him and work him out or watch him hit. The scouting director with the Brewers was Jack Zduriencik who is with Seattle now. He called me up and said “Hey, by any chance, I just got in. Is Pete’s team practicing today, I’d like to see him hit.” And I said “No, they’re not practicing today, but I’m throwing batting practice to him right after school on the baseball field.” And Jack asked if he could come out and watch and I said “absolutely!” Of course I wanted him to see my son. So he comes out and I’m throwing to Pete and I cannot throw a strike for nothing. I mean, I’m really struggling. I almost hit him a couple of times. When you’re throwing bad BP, it’s hard to show what kind of swing you’ve got or how you can hit. Just like when you see in a homerun derby, it’s important that the guy is throwing good to you. And I said to Jack, just let me take a break. As we’re picking up the balls around home plate, Pete says to me “Come on dad, you’re choking here. Let’s go!” We talk to each other like that all the time. We bash each other. At that moment, here comes the high school coach out of his golf cart. He throws the best BP in the world. I said to the coach “Hey coach, could you throw some to Pete?” and he said “Yeah, sure” so he took over. Pete had a good round and hit the ball all over the place. I tell people all the time that Pete told “Come on dad, you’re choking” and he was right. I was just trying to throw him perfect pitches and I just couldn’t do it. (laughs)
AngelsWin.com: What does he like to do in the offseason?
Chris Bourjos: He likes to hang out with his buddies. They bowl a little bit. What he likes to do the most probably is play golf, but he doesn’t have much time. Like last year, he couldn’t because he had the surgery. But he golfed, I think, two days before the surgery so that he could golf, but then I don’t think he was able to golf again until one or two weeks before Spring Training. He loves to golf, but with baseball, there just isn’t much time to do that in the winter.
AngelsWin.com: What have you done with his first homerun ball?
Chris Bourjos: We’ve got it, and it’s going into my office until he wants it back. He gave me his first hit and his first homerun ball.
AngelsWin.com: That’s awesome. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your son that the fans ought to know?
Chris Bourjos: I think that in the short period, and you’ve watched him and you’ve kept track, is that he loves to play the game. The thing about Pete is that he plays the game right. He’s always going play hard. He’s always going to hustle. He’s always going to play the game to win. He just likes to play.
AngelsWin.com: Well here at AngelsWin.com we love watching him play, roaming centerfield, robbing guys of base hits and extra bases.
Chris Bourjos: And I tell people that it’s mostly because of what I just said. And I hope it lasts a long time for him. He’s not the only one. There are a lot of guys on that field who love to play. But, that’s what I think mostly.
AngelsWin.com: On behalf of everyone at AngelsWin.com, I’d to thank you for taking the time today to speak with the fans and sharing your thoughts about your son.
Chris Bourjos: You’re welcome.