Evans soaks up big league experience

Evans soaks up Majors experience

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels outfielder Terry Evans sits in front of his locker in the spacious clubhouse at Tempe Diablo Stadium and reads a book. Sometimes he's doing a puzzle found in the daily newspaper.

He keeps his mind sharp and pays attention. He listens to the veterans, observes how they go about their business in preparation for a game or practice.

Evans attended Middle Georgia College, and he's still learning. The tall, lanky Southern gentleman is one of the Angels' top outfield prospects. As he climbed through the ranks, first with the St. Louis Cardinals, and last year at Triple-A Salt Lake City, he blossomed into a .300 hitter.

Evans got his shot at the big time when injuries decimated the Angels' outfield midway through last season. His first -- and currently only -- Major League hit was a home run in his first start.

The two-run shot, off the Astros' Wandy Rodriguez on June 20 at Angel Stadium, sparked an Angels' come-from-behind victory.

Evans played two games in June and was sent back to Salt Lake until he re-emerged in a September callup.

There's a small problem with being one of the top outfield prospect in the Angels' organization. There's a glut of outfielders already vying for playing time on the Major League roster.

If something happens, though, Evans will be ready.

"Last year, I came to camp with the attitude I had something to prove, especially when it was my first year in the organization," Evans said. "I need to shy away from trying to prove too much. I need to show consistency. Getting to know all the guys here makes it easier to feel more in place. No matter what your role is here, everybody is friendly."

Evans appreciated his initial venture into the big leagues. More than just fulfilling a dream, he says the experience gives him even more motivation to work toward staying in the big leagues for good.

"Having that experience last year helped with taking away from the awe factor," he said. "You feel more experienced. I used it in a positive way, knowing that I've always strived to be the best. There are only problems when you start to worry."

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Evans has come a long way since the Cardinals drafted him out of junior college at the tender age of 19. He wasn't even home when St. Louis scout Roger Smith called to inform him he'd been selected in the 47th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.

Evans, who grew up in a small-town environment, didn't know much about the Draft then, and was in a gym working out when his mother called to tell him the good news. He went back to working out after thanking his mother.

Evans always knew he wanted to play professional baseball, and it didn't matter who, when or where he was drafted. He just wanted to play ball.

A longtime fan of the Braves, he was able to work out with veteran Atlanta pitcher John Smoltz on occasion and considered him one of his influences in the game.

Evans felt he was right there at home plate when the Braves' Sid Bream slid home with the winning run of the 1992 National League Championship Series. He was only 10 years old at the time. He still cherishes a photo of the play at the plate.

Evans has been establishing his own memories since. He's been a Player of the Week in the Minor Leagues, and the Angels' Defensive Player of the Month last summer. And there was that big league home run.

These days, he's still soaking it in, observing his more famous teammates as they prepare for the season.

"I am all ears," Evans said. "I learn by watching and listening. I enjoy watching these guys. It's rare to be able to watch so much talent in the same outfield."

It's an outfield he's ready to join.

Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.