For the better part of a decade, Kole Calhoun had toiled on the diamonds surrounding Tempe Diablo Stadium. It was where he learned to hone his arm strength, sharpen his batting eye and become a feared defender. It was where he returned every spring training to prepare for another season patrolling the expansive right field at Angel Stadium.
On Saturday, Calhoun arrived at the spring facility in a new uniform. After spending six full major league seasons and part of two others with the team that drafted him in 2010 out of Arizona State, the 32-year-old signed with his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks in December for two years and $16 million.
He hadn’t given much thought to the Angels since then, Calhoun said before playing against his old team for the first time.
“I kept up with the whole baseball world, obviously, but once I signed with them my focus was really there,” he said. “I tried to separate a little bit and tried to move on. The Angels were all that I had known in pro ball; now I’m going to another organization. I want my heart to be there.”
Calhoun was a stalwart for the Angels. A defensive whiz, he won one Gold Glove and was a finalist multiple times. His 58 assists tied for the 11th-most among outfielders since his debut in 2012.
Calhoun’s stint with the Angels ended when the team bought out a $14-million option on his contract, making him a free agent for the first time in his career. A string of streaky performances at the plate had made retaining Calhoun at such a high rate untenable. So did the Angels’ faith in outfielder Brian Goodwin and right-field prospect Jo Adell.
Calhoun said the Angels did not make overtures to bring him back, but he didn’t take their decision poorly.
“Like I said before I left, right field in the Angels organization is in pretty good hands with what they got coming,” Calhoun said. “It’s all good. It was a heck of a run and I had a great time being an Angel.”
The Angels fans who watched him for so long appeared to share Calhoun’s appreciation. They cheered heartily when Calhoun was introduced on the public address system before Saturday’s game.
“After so many years over here,” he said, “getting to come back and see so many people and friendly people, especially, it was really cool.”