SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Bees outfielder Kole Calhoun is excited to shuffle off to Buffalo for Wednesday's Triple-A All-Star Game (MLB Network, 5 p.m.). It's the next scheduled move for the 24-year-old slugger, who has been on an accelerated path since getting drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2010.
After highly successful summers with the Orem Owlz and Inland Empire 66ers, the former Arizona State star bypassed Double-A ball and was assigned to Salt Lake this season. On May 22, Calhoun made his debut with the Angels. A day later, he recorded his first big-league hit — a double against the Oakland Athletics.
"If you had told me what was going to happen two years ago I wouldn't have believed a word you said," Calhoun noted. "So it's been a blessing, for sure."
The opportunity to go out and do his thing, he said, has been accompanied by good coaching and instruction.
Even so, Calhoun acknowledged it's all been a bit crazy. After all, he was expecting to be at Double-A Arkansas at this juncture.
Such gradual advancement, however, wasn't in the numbers. In his one and only season in the California League, Calhoun drove in 99 runs while batting .324 with 22 homers. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound slugger from Buckeye, Ariz., followed it up with a stellar spring — a .354 batting average and eight extra-base hits over 23 games.
The success has continued in Salt Lake. Through the Fourth of July, Calhoun was hitting .310 and leading the Bees with 53 runs batted in and 10 homers.
Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson also considers Calhoun one of the Pacific Coast League's top defensive players.
"The thing about Kole is he's a baseball player. He's going to go out there and he's a grinder," Johnson said while reeling off a list of accolades. "He still has that thirst for knowledge even as well as he's been doing."
It all adds up, he continued, to Calhoun being "well deserving" of all the success that is coming his way. Although Calhoun has already enjoyed a stint with the Angels, Johnson considers the Triple-A all-star recognition a big deal as well.
So does Calhoun.
"It's pretty exciting. I'm really looking forward to it," he said while expressing a desire to take in the whole experience in Buffalo. "I don't think many opportunities like this come along very often so, like I've said, I'm pumped. I can't wait to get up there."
Calhoun plans to watch the Home Run Derby and take part in other activities associated with the mid-season gathering.
It'll enhance an already-memorable summer for Calhoun, who became the 100th player in Arizona State history to play Major League Baseball.
That milestone, he admitted, is pretty cool.
Just getting there, though, was even more special.
Calhoun's call came about 15 minutes after the Bees arrived in Omaha following a bus trip from Des Moines.
Johnson delivered the news, something he considers an "absolutely awesome" part of his job as manager.
It's especially meaningful, however, for the player.
In 2000, Johnson remembers getting his first promotion to the big leagues. While playing for Triple-A Edmonton (the Angels' top affiliate at the time), he was summoned to California early in the season.
Johnson has fond memories of getting to the stadium in Anaheim for some early work and jogging around the field before others arrived. That's when the stress and worry of it all diminished. He felt inspired to stop, look around and soak in his first time as a major leaguer.
"I still remember the feeling," Johnson said. "I can still smell the grass and all that from that day."
Calhoun also has vivid memories about his first day in the majors. He noted that the 2002 movie "The Rookie" chronicling former Tampa Bay pitcher Jim Morris' inaugural trip to the big leagues was pretty much spot-on.
There were a lot of similarities.
Like Morris, Calhoun was called up with a teammate. He and pitcher Bobby Cassevah flew from Omaha to San Francisco and then took a cab to Oakland, where they arrived at The Coliseum ahead of the Angels. Calhoun's jersey was hanging in a locker next to superstar Albert Pujols.
"It was surreal. It was so hard to slow down and just kind of live in that moment," Calhoun said. "It was a dream come true."
Taking it all in, however, didn't really happen for Calhoun until he was standing on the field before the game.
"It was crazy. It was like I'm finally here," he said. "It's my ultimate goal that I've had my entire life and it was like happening right in front of my eyes."
Once the game started, though, it was time to compete and help the Angels win. It was definitely an "awe" experience, Calhoun explained, but it eventually came down to just being the same game he loved growing up — just at a higher level.
Adding to his adjustment were the handshakes and congratulations he received from his big-league teammates in the clubhouse before the game.
Calhoun's loved ones were also on hand to share his big day, although his initial attempt to let everyone know about his promotion didn't exactly follow a Hollywood script. He tried to reach his fiancé first but she didn't answer her phone. Calhoun then called his family and asked his mother to put his father on the line.
"I told him I got called up and he started crying," Calhoun said of his "biggest fan."
It just happened to be a Sunday, a time when the whole family traditionally gets together and Calhoun's father quickly shared the news.
"He told everybody and it just kind of went crazy," said Calhoun, whose fiancé then called on the other line and everyone was able to make it to Oakland from Arizona in time for the game the following day.
Calhoun remained with the Angels until June 12 when he was reassigned to Salt Lake. Getting a taste of the big leagues, Calhoun noted, was beneficial in terms of identifying what things he needs to work on. He's determined to keep improving. Calhoun is part of a young nucleus in the Angels' organization that includes first-time major league all-stars Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo.
"The talent on that team and in this organization is unbelievable," Calhoun said. "There's a lot of competition going up and down and that's good for any organization. So it's definitely fun to be a part of."
Salt Lake's Triple-A All-Stars
Since the Bees franchise moved to Utah in 1994
1994: Brian Raabe
1995: Riccardo Ingram, Mitch Simons, Scott Watkins
1996: Brian Raabe, Todd Walker
1997: Ryan Radmanovich
1998: Travis Baptist, Chad Rupp
1999: George Williams
2000: Josh Barnes, Todd Walker
2001: Jose Fernandez
2002: Bart Miadich, Jose Molina, Robb Quinlan
2003: Alfredo Amezaga
2004: Wil Nieves, Adam Riggs
2005: Dusty Bergman
2006: Howie Kendrick, Joe Saunders
2007: Terry Evans
2008: Matt Brown
2009: Terry Evans, Jeremy Hill
2010: Mark Trumbo
2011: Jeff Baisley, Gil VelazquezComment on this story
2012: Kole Calhoun
— SOURCE: Salt Lake Bees