Related article: 5 Questions with Salt Lake Bees outfielder Kole Calhoun
SALT LAKE CITY — Kole Calhoun may have returned his Angels jersey on Tuesday when he was optioned back to Salt Lake, but he certainly held onto his wings.
The 24-year old left-handed hitter soars above the rest, utilizing his breakneck speed and herculean athleticism to stand out on just about any roster. He brings an unparalleled versatility with stellar play at both the plate and in the outfield.
And after returning from a three-week stint in the majors, Calhoun is bringing an even brighter spark to the Bees' offense. He was a bright spot in Friday's 8-5 loss to Fresno, earning two runs, an RBI, and two extra base hits.
"He's just a great ballplayer," manager Keith Johnson said. "He's solid. He's one of those dirtbag type guys. A guy that … his uniform's not going to stay clean for very long. He grinds it out at bat and plays hard."
Calhoun, who was called up on May 21 after Los Angeles' Vernon Wells and Ryan Langerhans got injured, worked his way through the entire system in just a couple of years.
The eighth round draft pick out of Arizona State bypassed Double-A altogether — a remarkable and rare feat for such a young athlete — after hitting .324 with a .410 OBP, 22 homers, 36 doubles and 99 RBIs in 133 games for Class-A Inland Empire.
After such a notable performance at spring training this year, hitting .345 with eight extra-base hits, the tenacious slugger fulfilled a childhood dream with three weeks in the big leagues.
Though he played just eight games with the Angels, batting .250 with three hits and a two-run double, he thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
"It was awesome," he said. "I mean, it's a lifelong dream. Just being able to get the opportunity to go out and play and advance, and give me a chance to get up there and show what I can do. It was cool."
Though his big league action was limited, Calhoun was grateful to experience "the unknown," learning how the process works and becoming more familiar with his ultimate goal.
"I'm just going to go out and play," he said of his hopes to return. "I'm going to play my game, doing what I did to get up there the first time. I'll come to the field everyday, ready to go."
Calhoun was named the Angels' Minor League Player of the Year during his first full season last year, batting .324 with 22 home runs and 99 RBIs. His athletic abilities and formidable work ethic make a lethal combo; a combo the Angels won't soon forget.
"It's a joy to watch," Johnson said. "It's refreshing to see a guy go as hard as he goes. It goes back to his preparation and consistency that he shows on a daily basis. Hopefully at some point he'll turn into an everyday guy (for the Angels)."