There is nothing quite like the experience of getting called up to the big leagues for the first time, and Peter Bourjos got to live that dream earlier this month. One of the top prospects in the Angels’ organization, he made his big-league debut on August 3 following a stellar performance in Triple-A Salt Lake where he hit .314/.364/.498, with 13 home runs and 27 stolen bases. The 23-year-old Bourjos came into the season rated as the fastest baserunner and best defensive outfielder in the Angels’ system.
David Laurila: When did you first start to feel that a big-league call-up was possible?
Peter Bourjos: I was hoping during spring training that this would be the year I’d get called up, maybe in September, but I didn’t really know when it was going to happen. I was just hoping that I would have a good enough season to get called up and just kept plugging away. After July, I felt like if I had a good August, I’d get called up in September. That was my main goal.
DL: Did the August call-up come as a surprise?
PB: A little bit, yeah. I was just so focused on having a good year in Salt Lake—to keep hitting the ball like I had in July—that I wasn’t really focused on anything but just having a good year and not worrying about anything else.
DL: How much attention did you pay to what was happening with the big-league club?
PB: You’re always paying attention. I’ve known since my first year with the Angels [organization] how they’ve been doing. I think everybody follows what kind of year they’re having. If you’re not, I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re paying attention, but it’s more of an interest to see how the club is doing and not so much “Oh this guy’s not doing good; I’m maybe going to get called up.” You’re not looking at it like that. You just have an interest in the team, and I usually watch a lot of ESPN and “Baseball Tonight,” so it’s kind of hard not to see what they’re doing.
DL: How did you learn about the call-up?
PB: I found out after a doubleheader in Portland. I played the first game, and in the second game I didn’t play. After the game, [manager] Bobby Mitchell told me, “Hey Pete, come into the office. When I sat down, [hitting coach] Jim Eppard and Erik Bennett, the pitching coach, were in there. Bobby Mitchell said, “Hey, congratulations. You’re going up. You’re going to go up and play defense. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing down here.” Jim Eppard said the same thing. I was pretty excited.
Right after that, I called my dad and told him “Hey, I just got called up,” and he’s like, “You wouldn’t be joking about this?” I’m like, “No, I wouldn’t be joking.” My mom and my sister were right there, so I got to talk to them as well. Everybody was really excited. Then I called my girlfriend to let her know.
DL: When you didn’t play in the second game, did you wonder “Maybe…?”
PB: No. I wasn’t thinking about that at all. We’d had a long stretch—I think it was 27 games in a row—and I’d played in every game. We hadn’t had a day off in a while, and we were playing on turf, too, so I was thinking they were maybe just letting my legs rest.
DL: What about your teammates?
PB: I think they may have had an idea when I didn’t play the second game. Even before I went into the office, they were kind of joking around with me. I was like, “I don’t know what you guys are talking about.” Then, right when I came out [out of the office], they came right up to me and said “Congratulations” before I even said anything.
DL: You had obviously seen teammates get the call-up. Did you ever try to imagine how you‘d react when it was your turn?
PB: You think about how excited you’re going to be, but until it happens… it was a completely different feeling than I thought I’d have. I almost couldn’t control my emotions, I was so excited. Before, I‘d be like, “Yeah, I’ll be really excited, but I’ll be able to control my emotions.” It was more excitement that I thought it’d be.
DL: What happened when you got back to your hotel room that night?
PB: It was a short [road] trip, so I didn’t even bring my suit. I barely had any clothes with me, so I tried to run across the street to the mall and buy some clothes so I’d be ready when I went to Baltimore the next morning. But the mall was closed, so I was panicking. I was a nervous wreck and was like “Oh man, I don’t have any clothes.” Luckily, there was a mall right there in Baltimore that I was able to buy some clothes at. But, that night I just kind of hung out with my roommates and some of the guys I came up with—you know, watched TV and hung out with them. It was weird.
DL: So when you landed in Baltimore, the first thing you did was go shopping?
PB: I took [a cab] to the hotel, and there was a mall connected to the hotel, so right away I went up to my room and put my bag in there. Then I went downstairs and bought a bunch of clothes. For travel, you have to have a suit, and I didn’t have my suit. I think I had maybe one collared shirt and one pair of jeans, so I had to go to the store and buy some jeans, some collared shirts, and a suit, real quick, just so I wasn’t underdressed.
DL: How did you get to the ballpark?
PB: I went over with Rich Thompson and Michael Kohn. I took a cab with them. I didn’t even know how to get in the clubhouse and they were like, “Just come with us and we’ll show you how to get in there.”
We got [to the clubhouse] so early that there weren’t too many people, so I waited around until Mike Scioscia finally came in. I went up and he just said, “Congratulations. Keep doing what you’re doing; you’re going to be in center tonight.” At that point I’m saying, “Huh?” They’d always said that if I got called up I’d probably be playing right or left, so to hear him say “You’re playing center tonight” was kind of a shock in a way.
DL: What did it feel like to be standing in center field with Torii Hunter off to the side in right field?
PB: It was pretty weird. Growing up, I loved watching him taking home runs away and making Web Gems, kind of like he did here last night when he robbed that ball off [Adrian] Beltre. It was pretty weird, you know. I’ve never dreamed of looking to my left and seeing Torii Hunter in right field.
DL: Did you talk to him much during the game?
PB: Yeah, we were talking and he kind of helped me in certain situations, moving me here and there. With different counts, he’d help me out. Before the game he was great. He came up to me and said, “Hey, just keep doing what you’ve been doing and I’ll be in right if you need anything. I’m here for you. Ask as many questions as you can.” He’s been wonderful.
DL: Is it pretty much an automatic that if Torii Hunter says “Do this,” you will?
PB: Yeah. All those Gold Gloves—is it 10 in a row? It’s a lot in a row. Anything he says, I’m doing.
DL: What were you thinking standing in the outfield when the first batter came to the plate?
PB: First batter, I was kind of nervous. I was just thinking about positioning and counts and everything. Really, I was pretty nervous, but once I got the first fly ball, and I caught it, I kind of relaxed and it became baseball again, in a sense.
DL: What did it feel like standing in the batter’s box the first time?
PB: Pretty crazy. It was a huge stadium; I’d never been in that big of a stadium before, so it was pretty weird in a sense. But once the first pitch was thrown, it was just like another at-bat, you know. I flew out to left, and ended up going 0 for 3.
I was really just trying to focus. I don’t know if it has really hit me that I’m in the big leagues. It’s been surreal, almost, but it’s been awesome.
DL: You got your first big-league hit the following day. What were you thinking standing on first base?
PB: I was excited with my first hit. I hit it and it kind of tipped off the third baseman’s glove, for Baltimore; I think it was [Josh] Bell. Once it tipped off his glove, I was like, “Please be a hit.” You know, get the first one out of the way. It was a dream come true, in a sense, because you always dream of your first hit in the big leagues.
When I came into the dugout, they gave me the ball. At least I thought it was the ball. It had ‘Peter Bourjous, first major league hit’ and the date and everything, but I’m looking at it closer and my last name is spelled wrong and I’m like “Oh man, they spelled my name wrong.” Then I flip it over and it says “Hey, congratulations on your first hit. It should have been an error, and you’re never gonna get another hit again.” [Jered] Weaver had written it as a joke, and they had the real ball up in my locker. It was pretty funny.
DL: You actually looked at the scoreboard to see if it flashed hit or error. Did you feel at all guilty about that?
PB: No, not at that time. Not in that situation. Any other time I would, but not with my first hit.
DL: Standing on first base, were you hoping to get the green light?
PB: Yeah, I was. I’m always hoping for it. You know, I like to run. But, in certain situations you know you’re not going to get it. But when I got to second—[Brian] Matusz was pretty slow to the plate—I saw the green light, and I went right away. That was pretty exciting. I was just like “Get a good jump and make sure you’re safe; don’t get thrown out.’ You don’t want to start off on a bad note.
DL: Any final thoughts on your introduction to the big leagues?
PB: I was very fortunate that my parents got to come out and see it—and my girlfriend. That was pretty cool for them. My dad works for the Baltimore Orioles as a scout and his boss told him “Hey, why don’t you come out and see the Orioles, we’ll give you the coverage for the game and you can come out and see Pete.” It was pretty special for him and my family to come out and watch.