ANAHEIM -- Gary DiSarcina was two years into retirement and four years removed from a full season, but he was foremost on the minds of a champagne-soaked Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad and Troy Percival on the night of Sept. 26, 2002, not long after the Angels clinched a playoff spot few deemed possible when the season began.
And so, in the middle of the music and the hugs and the tears and the booze, the three veterans snuck into a dry corner of the celebratory clubhouse and made it a point to call DiSarcina, the beloved Angels infielder who manned shortstop and set an example from 1989 to 2000.
This, they believed, wouldn't have been possible without him.
"We all felt like we were kind of his disciples," Salmon said. "Our games, the way we went about it, that blue-collar attitude and effort was something that we really developed and adopted from a guy in DiSar that really helped shape and mold us."
On Tuesday, DiSarcina officially returned to the Angels for the third time, getting plucked out of his managing job with the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate to take over as the new third-base coach under Mike Scioscia.
DiSarcina interviewed for the Mariners' managerial vacancy and had an invitation to return to the Pawtucket Red Sox, where he went 80-63 and made a profound impact on the likes of Xander Bogaerts and Jose Iglesias.
"But at the end of this process," DiSarcina said, "the one thing I kept going back to was, 'I'm an Angel.'"
DiSarcina, a Massachusetts product taken in the sixth round in 1988, was an All-Star in 1995 and the Angels' team MVP in 1998. He got tired of grinding through injuries after the 2000 season and retired, serving as an analyst for NESN and running his baseball academy before spending 2006-10 in the Red Sox organization, first as a baseball operations consultant, then as a successful Class A manager for three years and then as an infield coordinator.
The Angels hired DiSarcina as special assistant to then-general manager Tony Reagins in 2011, then promoted him to field coordinator in '12. GM Jerry Dipoto was fresh off giving DiSarcina another promotion last offseason before he returned to the Red Sox because he wanted to get back to the field and he wanted to be closer to his teenage daughter and son.
At the time, Dipoto said: "I hope there's a day when he comes back and joins the Angels family again, because in our hearts, he'll never be gone."
Eleven months later, Dipoto gave him his first job on a Major League coaching staff.
"I do not think there is a better solution for the position on our staff," Dipoto said in a statement. "With his lineage to this organization, the relationships he has with so many personnel past and present, and his knowledge of our organization overall, his addition is advantageous on so many levels."
DiSarcina replaces Dino Ebel, who was promoted to bench coach after the dismissal of Rob Picciolo, and joins new hitting coach Don Baylor, who supplanted Jim Eppard, as Angels luminaries hired to a reshaped coaching staff after four consecutive playoff absences.
"Gary DiSarcina and Don Baylor definitely bring presence when they walk into a clubhouse to relate to players and their understanding in that regard," Scioscia said on a joint conference call with DiSarcina. "It'll be another vehicle and another tool for players to lean on these guys."
Scioscia, who managed DiSarcina in his final season in 2000, said "Gary is going to manage in the big leagues; I don't think there's any question about that."
But DiSarcina stressed that isn't his focus right now.
"It's a goal of mine, but it's down the line," he said. "It's far down the line. My goal here is to be the best third-base coach in Major League Baseball."
DiSarcina doesn't have much experience in that role. But he'll look to draw on his experiences coaching third base for Team Italy in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and for the Red Sox in Spring Training this past March. He said he learned a lot from watching Red Sox infield coach Brian Butterfield do it for the eventual World Series champs, and talked about having a valuable resource in Ebel on the same staff.
He'll be "as aggressive as Mike lets me be," DiSarcina said.
"There's a lot that goes into it, and it's my job to make the adjustment, do my homework, do my research," he added. "… It'll be a little bit of an adjustment, but that's what Spring Training is for."
DiSarcina played in 1,086 games with the Angels -- seventh most in franchise history -- amassing a .258 batting average, 186 doubles, 20 triples, 28 homers, 355 RBIs and 444 runs.
But his favorite moment came away from the field.
It was Oct. 5, 2002, when DiSarcina threw out the first pitch moments before Game 4 of the American League Division Series, hours before the Angels advanced to the next round and weeks before they'd be crowned champions for the first -- and, still, only -- time in franchise history.
"I walked out there, threw out the first pitch to Troy Percival, and the reception I received after not being there for a year, year and a half, and being hurt, going through some injuries, left an impression on me that I'll never forget," DiSarcina said. "I was just a grinder shortstop that had three or four really good years and the rest were average to below average and playing hurt. For me, being in that stadium that day, I'll never forget it."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.