Beyond Major League Baseball, all true baseball fans should love this time of year. That’s because we also set our sights on Omaha, Nebraska, home of the College World Series. This year, LSU and the University of Florida vied for the national championship, which the Gators bested the Tigers for the title Tuesday night. But it was just eight years ago that we saw a young junior at Arizona State, who stormed onto the scene in Omaha and provided us a glimpse of his potential to play at the highest level. That was Los Angeles Angels starting right fielder Kole Calhoun.
Kole Calhoun was Once a College World Series Hero
In 2009, Arizona State ran their regionals and super regionals, en route to a berth in the final eight, who made it to the College World Series. The Sun Devils had several outstanding players, not the least of which was Johnny Ruettiger, the nephew of former Notre Dame football player “Rudy” Ruettiger, immortalized in the movie, Rudy. But what you couldn’t miss was this stocky right fielder with bushy red hair sticking out of his hat for ASU.
College World Series Legend
Calhoun captured your imagination with his appearance, but in short order you couldn’t wait to see his next at bat because every trip to the plate had the promise of another heroic blast. In four games, Calhoun put up little league numbers, batting a ridiculous .563, with three home runs and 11 RBI. Even his outs were interesting! Ultimately, the Sun Devils were eliminated by the Texas Longhorns and the “Kole Calhoun Show” was over. But he was far from finished.
Power and a Good Eye
Calhoun played one more year at Arizona State before graduating and turning pro. During his two seasons (he played two years junior college, prior to joining the Sun Devils), he batted .317 and demonstrated that he had pop in his bat, with 12 and 17 home runs, respectively. That power is something we have grown to expect during his major league career. Additionally, he clearly had a good eye at the plate, logging over 100 walks. However, despite those numbers and being an All PAC -10 selection, he was not drafted until the eighth round when the Angels picked him up. Raised in Buckeye, Arizona, it seems that Calhoun was destined to be on the West Coast.
Short Final to the Big Leagues
Calhoun played in the minors from 2010 to 2012, putting up impressive numbers each year. He had a short call-up to the Angels in 2012, but in 2013 he was batting .354 at Triple-A Salt Lake when he was called up again and became a permanent fixture on the Angels roster.
By 2014, Calhoun became a regular in the starting line up and this is the third consecutive year he has been an iron man, playing nearly every game. During the last three seasons, he has averaged 20 home runs and 72 RBI, as well as drawing regular walks, as the lead off hitter. This season, Calhoun has seen a dip in his batting average, as he is down to around .250. However, he is still hitting with power and is once again on a glide path to a 20 home run, 70+ RBI season. He still draws walks and is a key contributor to the Angels offense.
He also has a rifle for an arm in right field. Having also pitched in college, any runner looking to take an extra base has to be leery of his ability to gun them down. Despite the downturn in his average, Calhoun looks to be a fixture in the Angels line up for some time to come.
Every year, the College World Series provides exciting and entertaining, high level baseball. Additionally, it’s interesting because the leads are rarely safe and the amateur mistakes keep it riveting. This year’s CWS was no exception. And we have seen some players at this year that will one day play in the majors. But eight years ago, in Omaha, it was Calhoun that stormed Nebraska and captured our imagination, ultimately en route to the Angels outfield.