ANAHEIM -- Ian Stewart didn't grow up very far from here. He was born in Long Beach and attended La Quinta High School in Westminster, Calif. During Little League, he'd march around this very outfield with hundreds of other kids before Sunday home games. In his junior and senior years of high school, he stood in the box at Angel Stadium for state championship games. And though he resides in North Carolina with his wife, Stewart's parents and sister still make Southern California their home.
But that's not why the left-handed-hitting infielder called cracking the Angels' Opening Day roster "very, very satisfying."
"This is really the first time I've had to fight for my spot on the team," Stewart said prior to Monday's first pitch. "From Little League up until the time I was in Colorado and Chicago, I was the third baseman for both of those organizations. I knew it was going to be tough, I knew I was going to have to play my way onto the team, so I was prepared for that. And I think that's why it was so gratifying, because I know that the work I put in during the winter really paid off."
Stewart worked with Hall of Famer and former Angels great Rod Carew, trying to repair a swing that produced only a .171/.303/.347 slash line while battling a left wrist injury and spending the entire 2013 season in the Minor Leagues.
He also had an image to repair.
Stewart -- selected 10th overall out of high school by the Rockies in 2003 -- spent all of 2012 and the first half of '13 in the Cubs organization and ended his tenure in Chicago with an ugly fallout, tweeting his frustrations over not being promoted from the Minor Leagues, serving a 10-game suspension in mid-June for violating the loyalty clause in his contract and getting released shortly thereafter.
But Carew recommended him to the organization, Don Baylor -- Stewart's hitting coach in Colorado -- was comfortable with his background and the Angels never even brought up the Twitter situation.
"I thought maybe there would be a lot of backlash from that with other organizations, with it being hard to get onto a team because of the situation, but I got a lot of support from people," Stewart said. "We weren't very far into the offseason before I started hearing from some organizations. That was good to see.
"I think I do have a good reputation in baseball. I know that that situation was just an isolated incident. It's just something that happened and I dealt with, and I'm just fortunate the Angels gave me an opportunity."
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.