Friday, August 5, 2011

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

The youth movement in Anaheim is in full swing. With 10 players on the current 25-man roster having less than 2 years of MLB service time, the kids are the story for the year.

But, we can’t talk about the rookies without talking about the veterans. It’s up to them to mentor the youngsters and shoulder the load as they adjust to life in the Major Leagues.

In part two of our series on the youth movement, we interviewed three integral veterans to find out how they are helping the younger players and what potential that they see in them. We asked them about how they see the race with Texas shaping up and how they are preparing to bring another division title to the Angels.

Listening to the veterans, their take on the game is of particular importance. They’ve been through many races and many challenges in their career. Yet, talking with them, they are confident in their play and in the team. Unlike some of the fans, they weren’t upset about the lack of moves at the deadlines or what Texas did. Their only concern was winning the games at hand and taking control of the team’s fate.

The first veteran that we spoke with was Bobby Abreu. At 37, he’s the “old man” of the offense. In over 2,200 games played, he’s been through every type of race, from early season eliminations to down-to-the-wire races. He’s played with Hall of Famers and stands a good chance of being one himself one day. But for now, he’s the team’s expert at patience at the plate and making quality at-bats. If the Angels’ offense is going to improve its ability to score runs, it will require more of the table setters to get on ahead of the heart of the order.

Click below to listen to our interview with Bobby Abreu.

The second veteran that we spoke with was Torii Hunter. Always affable, always holding court, Torii’s charisma resonates well with the fans. With young Peter Bourjos taking over centerfield for him, it’s up to Torii to give Peter the extra tips to make him a truly nuanced player. If Bourjos wins a Gold Glove for his defense this year, it will be because of many of those little subtleties handed down from Torii and all of his experience winning 9 Gold Gloves.

Click below to listen to our interview with Torii Hunter.

The last veteran with whom we spoke is Vernon Wells. The newest of the veterans to arrive, he’s had to make his own adjustments to the Angels all while mentoring the youngsters. Vernon is a pro, and he knows that like Abreu and Hunter, the Angels will be turning to him down the stretch to boost this offense. He’s confident in the team and confident in the younger players. He’s excited to have the chance to play in his first post-season games in his 12+ Major League career.

Click below to listen to our interview with Vernon Wells.

Baseball is a game of adjustments. A young player adjusts to the league, the league adjusts back.

The Angels have a solid mix of young and veteran players who are capable of bringing another division title to Anaheim. They are all confident in their abilities. But, for the youngsters on the team, they know that they can turn to the veterans to learn those extra bits of advice that may prove pivotal down the stretch. The lessons that they learn today from Abreu, Hunter, and Wells will someday be passed down to the next group of Angels’ youngsters, such as Amarista, Conger, Richards and Trout. That combination of talent and experience will help keep the Angels on top of the A.L. West for years to come.

Funny, as I finish up this article, Torii Hunter led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a single -- moved up to second base on a wild pitch -- and the next batter Vernon Wells drove him in with a walk-off single. Perfect timing! The veterans answered as their actions spoke loudly in tonight's win.
Love to hear what you think!

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