August 5, 2010
By David Driver
For the Sun-Times Media
Used with permission
BALTIMORE -- Peter Bourjos, a native of Park Ridge, grew up around professional baseball.
His father, Chris, was born in Chicago and played in the big leagues for the San Francisco Giants in 1980.
The younger Bourjos was born in 1987 and used to join his father, then a baseball scout, on trips to ballparks across the country while on break from school in the summer.
But when the younger Bourjos called his father on Sunday to tell him he had been promoted to the Major Leagues for the first time, he got a surprise response.
"I was pretty excited. I called my dad and he said, 'You are not joking. You wouldn't joke about this.' No, I wouldn't joke about this," according to Chris.
It was not a joke.
The speedy Bourjos, 23, was called from Triple-A Salt Lake, the top farm club of the Angels. Salt Lake was in Portland, Ore., on Sunday when a trainer told him to talk to Bobby Mitchell, the Salt Lake manager. Mitchell told Bourjos he was being called up.
"I was pretty excited. He told me to keep doing what I was doing," Bourjos said before Wednesday's game in Baltimore.
The player flew from Portland to Salt Lake City and then to Baltimore on Monday, which was an off day for the Angels.
"I beat the team by a few hours," said Bourjos, who walked around the Inner Harbor on Monday.
He started in center field in his first big league game for the Angels on Tuesday at Camden Yards in Baltimore and was hitless in three at-bats. He had two hits in four at-bats Wednesday and scored the first run of his big league career.
He was hitting .314 with 13 homers, 27 steals and 52 RBI in 414 at-bats for Salt Lake and had hit .422 with four homers in his last 10 games in the minors. He collected five hits in six at-bats July 24 against Colorado Springs.
"Obviously we want him for his defense," said Ron Roenicke, the veteran bench coach for the Angels. "I saw a little bit of him in spring training. The reports we got on him was he is a great outfielder. We need to get better defensively here. That is the reason we brought him up. He got out recently with the bat (at Salt Lake), which is a nice plus. But we really want him to play defense."
By coincidence, his father is now in his first year as a professional scout for the Orioles after several years with Milwaukee and Toronto. His father and mother were on hand for his first big league game in Baltimore.
"It has been a dream of mine since I realized you could do this (for a living)," Bourjos said. "I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps. I wanted to be like my father and make the big leagues."
Bourjos attended St. Priscilla and said he was in "first or second grade" when his family moved to Arizona. He still has relatives in the Chicago area and he made at least one return trip there since relocating. The family of Jim Miller, the husband of Peter's mother's sister, lives in the Chicago area. Bourjos said he attended games at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park during trips back to see his relatives and he also went to big league games with his father on scouting trips.
The first game of Bourjos' big league career came on the same night that Buck Showalter managed his first game for the Orioles. As a teenager Bourjos would attend Arizona Diamonback games in Phoenix at a time when Showalter was the manager of the D-backs.
Other big leaguers born in Park Ridge, according to baseballreference.com, include Al Levine (1968) and Luke Gregerson (1984). Levine made his big league debut in 1996 and among the teams he pitched for was the White Sox and Angels. Gregerson made his debut with the Padres in 2009 and has also pitched for San Diego this season.
Park Ridge natives Brian Schlitter (Cubs) and Adam Rosales (A's) also have been with major league clubs this season.
Bourjos was drafted by the Angels in the 10th round in 2005 out of Notre Dame high school in Scottsdale, Ariz., and made his pro debut the next year with Orem (Utah) in the Pioneer League. He hit .292 that year.
That's when he began thinking the big leagues were possible.
"I think after my first year in Orem. I had a pretty good year," he said. "I didn't know what to expect. Then I turned it around in the second half. I realized I could play with these guys. I felt at that point I was going to be able to make it."
He moved up to low Single-A Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League and hit .274 in 2007. The next season he advanced to the high Single-A California League, where he led the league with 50 steals and hit .295 with nine homers and 51 RBI for Rancho Cucamonga. He moved up to Class-AA Arkansas of the Texas League in 2009 and led the league with 14 triples and had 32 steals while hitting .281. He was added to the 40-man roster of the Angels before the 2010 season.
Bourjos started in center field as Torii Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove winner in center, moved to right field with the Angels.
"It's pretty weird. I watched him growing up. He was always a guy (whom) I tried to play like," Bourjos told reporters.
Bourjos said Hunter has been helpful in making the move to the big leagues as an outfielder.
"He has been unbelievable," Bourjos said. "I could not have asked for anything better. He told me where to play certain guys. He said, 'If you need help look over at me and I will help you out.' He has been great," said the Park Ridge product.