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Bees: Outfielder Calhoun surges back after injury

Published June 10, 2013 9:11 am

PCL baseball • Former Arizona State captain wields hot bat for Salt Lake.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Every time Kole Calhoun had encountered a problem on the field, the answer was simple: Play more baseball.

No big college scholarships out of high school? Play more baseball. Scouts told him he couldn't run? Play more baseball. Caught in a hitting slump? Play more baseball.

When the Salt Lake Bees outfielder broke a bone in his wrist on Opening Night this season, that's when he was truly at a loss. It was the first time he ever had a baseball problem that couldn't be solved by retreating to the batting cages or shagging fly balls.

"Even in the offseason, it's always like, I've got to work out, I got to throw, I got to hit," Calhoun said. "Then it was just nothing. It was tough for me. It was tough walking into rehab, do a few exercises, and then I'm out of there in 2-3 hours. Here I am having the whole day to just my thoughts."

Calhoun's first-ever stint on the disabled list lasted six weeks, and that's all the time the 25-year-old was willing to take off. Since rejoining the lineup in mid-May, he's been on a tear: batting .354 in 20 games with four homers and 19 RBIs.

He still fights through pain at times, but all of Calhoun's teammates know it's hard to count him out for anything. And although he struggled with his first long-term injury, he hasn't let it set him back on his quest to get back to the big leagues.

"It's one of the things you can't teach, can't coach," manager Keith Johnson said of his determination. "It's who he is as a person, and it shows up in his game. It actually makes him better."

It was a motion he's made a million times: following through on a swing.

After fouling off a pitch in only his fourth at-bat of the year, Calhoun felt a pop in his right hand, then pain shooting up his arm. Then, like a light, it went out.

He couldn't grab or grip. When he flexed his hand, he felt needles crawling their way to his elbow.

"I lost all strength in my hand," Calhoun said. "It was at that point when you say, 'OK, something's wrong.' "

The outfielder had fractured his hamate bone, a part of the wrist that, when fractured, makes it pretty hard to swing a bat or catch a ball. Treatment means surgically removing the bone, then sitting out six weeks.

It was Calhoun's second setback in a short span. He had been aiming to make the L.A. Angels roster out of spring training but had been sent back to Salt Lake. But the latest roadblock kept him from playing at all, much less trying to prove he could be a full-time big leaguer.

Calhoun has thrived thoughout his career by keeping a chip on his shoulder. He went to Yavapai College before earning a scholarship at Arizona State. He was a team captain for the Sun Devils before finally being drafted for the first time in 2010. In only two years, he made his major league debut.

This was different.

"I didn't know what to do, man, I was bored," he said. "I just wanted to force the issue, but it's really something you can't force. You just have to let time take care of it."

Calhoun did his due diligence, going through therapy and keeping himself in shape. He spent his free time with his family in Arizona. He and his wife particularly enjoyed taking care of their baby nephew.

Once he was cleared to play again, Calhoun wasted no time getting back to business. He notched two hits in his return May 19. His hits were a bit softer, his contact not as solid, but he stayed patient.

"I caught myself wanting to swing before balls were thrown, and I didn't really trust it," he said. "There was a lot of soft liners, and it wasn't really feeling right. It wasn't until we were in Las Vegas when I started hitting balls and I thought, 'All right, that's my swing right there.' "

He had been back less than three weeks when the Pacific Coast League named him hitter of the week, the first time Calhoun has been so honored at any level.

Now, he's turned his focus to helping the Bees turn around their season and climb above .500. It's been refreshing having him back in the clubhouse, Johnson said, because he never acts like he should be playing above where he is.

Still, Calhoun wants to be up in the bigs again, but faces a tough path to get there. The organization has a young and expensive set of starters: Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos. If Calhoun is called up again this year, it will likely be as a utility player.

That doesn't mean greatness isn't in his future. Bourjos was playing in Salt Lake this week, finishing up rehab from his own injury. He and Calhoun have gotten along well, even briefly intersecting in Arizona. With his progress, Bourjos said, there's no reason to think Calhoun will be in Triple-A ball forever.

Just let him play a little more baseball.

"It's good to see him tearing it up," Bourjos said. "On a lot of teams he'd be in the big leagues. Right now he's got to keep doing what he's doing, and he's going to crack through. And he's going to be there for a while."


Twitter: @kylegoon —

Kole Calhoun returns from injury

Since returning on May 19, the 25-year-old outfielding prospect has had spectacular numbers in 20 games:

• .354 batting average*

• .570 slugging*

• .435 on base percentage*• Only 7 strikeouts against 12 walks

• 4 home runs

• 19 RBIs

• 0 errors in outfield

* - leads the team —

Storylines Bees 6, Grizzlies 4

R Salt Lake rallies Sunday to win for the eighth time in 10 games.

• The Bees take a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning when Roberto Lopez hits an RBI single and John Hester scores on a wild pitch.

• Salt Lake adds an insurance run on Trent Oeltjen's RBI single in the eighth.






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