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04/02/07 9:49 PM ET

Percival officially retires as an Angel

Closer spent 10 years as a Halo, earning 316 saves with Anaheim

ANAHEIM -- Wearing his No. 40 Angels jersey and his emotions on his sleeves, Troy Percival formally retired from Major League Baseball on Monday after signing a Minor League Angels contract.

"I never left the Angels organization, in my heart," Percival said, who signed with Detroit after the 2004 season, his 10th in Anaheim, and spent one season with the Tigers before an injury to his right forearm in July 2005 forced him to the sidelines all of last season.

The Angels' all-time saves leader, Percival, 37, was given the distinction of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before former teammate John Lackey took the ball in earnest against Texas at Angel Stadium.

With Bob Seger's "Still the Same" blasting over the PA system and the Angel Stadium crowd and cheering, Percival ran in from the bullpen, took the mound and threw a classic fastball to catcher Jose Molina, ushering in the new season. Percival got the final out in the 2002 World Series, closing Game 7 for the franchise's first championship.

Percival couldn't resist a few laugh-inducing verbal jabs as he went through the process of signing the contract alongside Bill Stoneman, the club's vice president and general manager, and communications vice-president Tim Mead.

"I need my agent -- I know he can squeeze two days out of you," Percival said, grinning. "Do I get released now? I've never been released."

A no-nonsense performer on the mound who brought the heat from start to finish in his illustrious career, Percival alluded to the Angels' 2002 World Series championship and an American League playoff triumph over the New York Yankees as crowning achievements in his career.

Drafted and signed in 1990 out of UC Riverside, where he'd been a catcher, Percival began his Major League career in 1995. He retires with 324 career saves, tying him with the Mets' Billy Wagner for 11th on the all-time list. He appeared in 605 games for the Angels and Tigers.

All but eight of those 324 saves came while he wore an Angels uniform, with many of his best memories coming during the magical 2002 ride to the World Series championship.

He got the final out in each of the Angels' three series-clinching victories, against the Yankees, Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants, tying a postseason record with seven saves in as many opportunities.

"Obviously, Game 7 of the World Series [against the Giants] was huge from an organizational standpoint," Percival said. "I was real proud we beat up the Yankees [in the ALDS] after we were given no chance."

His career high for saves in a season came in 1998 when he produced 42, but his finest overall season was 2002. He was 4-1 with 40 saves and a 1.92 ERA.

Percival, employed by the Angels as a special assignment pitching instructor, "always wanted the ball with the game on the line," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Saving Game 6 and Game 7 of the World Series ... that's quite an accomplishment."

His willingness to extend himself for the cause created physical hardships at times for Percival, but it also endeared him to teammates, who recognized his toughness under fire in making him an unquestioned team leader.

That passion for the game also made Percival a fan favorite in Southern California.

"This club has always embraced me and my family," he said. "I'm honored to retire as an Angel."

Stoneman said it was "very appropriate" for the rugged reliever to depart in this fashion, adding, "Troy Percival has been an integral part of the success and tradition of Angels baseball for many years."

A four-time All-Star, Percival, his wife, Michelle, and their children, Cole and Avery, live in Riverside.

Percival said he's having a ball managing a Little League team now and said he had a "fantastic time" in Spring Training with the Angels.

He delights in watching the development of former teammates such as Lackey, Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez, how they've evolved as professionals, and said he'd like to think he had something to do with that.

What he finds most gratifying now is showing youngsters the way it's done.

"Big league camp was fun, but I spent enough time there for 16, 17 years," he said. "I really enjoyed Minor League camp."

Beyond teaching mechanics, Percival stressed "the mentality of being a big leaguer -- how you act, how you treat people" in his talks with Angels prospects. That's something he'll continue pursuing in his role as roving instructor.

"I really relish this organization, the way they treat players," Percival said. "I'm glad to be back. I didn't burn any bridges."

He was too busy building them.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.