"I definitely appreciate it a lot more," the former Angels and current Rays closer said. "I don't ride the highs as high or the lows as low."
The Riverside, Calif., resident wore an Angels uniform until the day he retired, even throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the team's season opener on April 2, 2007.
But something happened when Percival tried to put his playing days behind him. The same right arm that had plagued him throughout the 2005 and '06 seasons, as he struggled with a torn muscle in his forearm, started to feel pretty good.
So less than six months after throwing out the Angels' ceremonial pitch, Percival found himself in a St. Louis uniform, appearing in 34 games and compiling a 1.80 ERA.
"It's a pretty cool story," Casey Kotchman said. Kotchman is one of several Angels players who played with Percival and will face the closer for the first time in a Rays uniform.
"Obviously, it's a tribute to what he's done and what he can still do," Kotchman said. "It's pretty impressive."
Percival, who is the Angels' career leader in saves, has wowed a new set of fans in St. Petersburg. The four-time All-Star has saved seven games for the Rays this season, posting a 2.25 ERA.
"I don't even want to know," Percival said, of how his miraculous recovery came to be. "If I'd start analyzing it, as soon as I do, some baseball gods would come and tell me, 'You're right, you shouldn't be out there.'"
For now, Percival is more than happy for the opportunity to continue to play, and 2008 marks his 14th season in the Major Leagues, making him a seasoned veteran by anyone's standards.
"What's not to enjoy? I get to play a game every day," Percival said. "The stuff's a little different, the repertoire is a little different, but I still feel like it's me on the mound."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less