09/12/2002 02:58 am ET
Wooten comes up big for Angels
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Shawn Wooten has slept his share of nights on buses, rolling through desolate farmland on the way to countless minor-league towns.
The teams he played for are threads in the fabric of his baseball experience: Bristol, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Moose Jaw, Cedar Rapids, Lake Elsinore, Midland, Erie and Edmonton.
It's doubtful that he ever envisioned the spectacle of adulation he received Wednesday night after hitting the two-run double that led the Angels to a thrilling 6-5 comeback victory over the Oakland A's.
A packed house at Edison Field, whirling white T-shirts and full of patriotic emotion, made it clear who their man of the hour was.
"WOOT! WOOT! WOOT!"
It echoed through the stadium as the Angels walked off the field.
Anaheim is now one game behind the A's in the American League West and six up on the Seattle Mariners with 17 games to play.
"It makes me feel good," Wooten said. "I put a lot of effort into making it here and it's nice to see that it's appreciated."
Wooten spent nine seasons in the minor leagues before getting the call to join the Angels as a jack-of-all-trades utility man last year.
He appeared at designated hitter, first base, third base, catcher and pinch hitter and led the team in hitting, batting .312 in 221 at-bats before his season was cut short in early September because of torn cartilage in his left wrist.
This season, he tore a thumb ligament in Spring Training and then strained his side while rehabbing the first injury. Both setbacks kept him out of the lineup until after the All-Star break.
With regular first baseman Scott Spiezio having a career year and designated hitter Brad Fullmer on a hot streak, Wooten hasn't seen many at-bats lately.
And it's likely that he wouldn't have even started Wednesday's game if not for regular third baseman Troy Glaus being scratched because of jammed fingers suffered while sliding to steal a base Monday night.
Spiezio moved to third base, Wooten got the start at first, and Wooten delivered.
"Woot got some huge hits for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "The way he has been swinging the bat, it's been a huge lift for us."
With the three hits, Wooten is batting .317 on the year despite his status as a bench player.
"It shows what kind of character he has," shortstop David Eckstein said. "He takes full advantage of his opportunities. Shawn had to battle all the way to the big leagues. It shows that he believes in himself. You just want a guy like that as a teammate."
Scot Shields, a minor-league teammate of Wooten's who got the win after pitching 2 2/3 innings of relief Wednesday, agreed.
"He's not a superstar, but he does the things that help the team win," Shields said. "This clubhouse is full of guys like him -- guys that play the game the way it's supposed to be played."
Wooten didn't just smack three doubles and dirty up the uniform that houses his 5-foot-10, 225-pound frame.
He made an impressive stab of a hot grounder by A's slugger Eric Chavez, tossing it to pitcher Ben Weber for a crucial out in the eighth inning.
"He's really underrated defensively," Shields said. "He played third behind me in the minors and made every play."
With every play and every hit, Wooten remembers the bus rides.
"You can imagine a lot of stuff on a 24-hour bus ride from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to Green Bay, Wisconsin," he said.
"It's a long way from here. A lot of hard work along the way."
The Angels hit seven doubles Wednesday night, a single-game season high. ... Thirty-nine of the team's 90 wins have been in comeback fashion. Of those 39, 15 have come in the seventh inning or later. ... The Angels are 61-17 when getting 10 hits or more and are averaging 11.4 hits per game over their last 17 games. ... Anaheim is three wins shy of the club record of 93 set in 1982. ... The Angels are 27-17 in one-run games this season (24-24 in 2001). ... Garret Anderson hit his Major League-leading 54th double in the fifth inning. His 82 extra-base hits are three shy of tying the single-season club record of 85 set by Troy Glaus in 2000. ... Adam Kennedy hit his 31st double of the year in the fourth inning. He has 30 hits in his last 71 at-bats in his last 19 games (.423). ... Darin Erstad singled to left in the eighth to snap an 0-for-9 skid.
Doug Miller covers the Angels for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.