Michael Colangelo was injured in his major-league debut with the Angels on June 13, 1999 — and never played for the Angels again.
Michael Colangelo took the fast track to the big leagues.
He was a 21st round draft pick out of George Mason University when the Angels selected him in June 1997. There was no reason to think he’d ever see the majors, but a hot bat rocketed him through the system.
At the plate, Mike was the late 1990s version of Howie Kendrick — an unknown who simply hit for high average at every level.
He began the 1998 season at Low-A Cedar Rapids, posting an AVG/OBP/SLG of .277/.378/.518 in 22 games. That got him a promotion to High-A Lake Elsinore, where in 36 games he hit .379/.448/.600.
And Mike wasn’t so unknown any more.
He suffered a hand injury at Lake Elsinore, which cost him most of the year, but in 1999 he started the season with a promotion to Double-A Erie, and kept on hitting. In 28 games, his line was .339/.433/.514. So the Angels moved him up to Triple-A Edmonton — and he hit .362/.442/.448.
The parent club, meanwhile, suffered injuries to many of their outfielders, and so it was that on June 13, 1999, Mike was called up to Anaheim to start in left field against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’d played a total of 112 minor league games, less than one full season.
Mike had three plate appearances that day. He reached base twice, with a single and walk. He also threw out Arizona baserunner Andy Fox, who tagged up on the rookie outfielder and tried to advance from first to second on a routine fly ball. Mike nailed him.
No good deed goes unpunished, though, and in the top of the 7th Fate intervened.
A line drive was hit up the alley in left-center field. Colangelo raced to his left. Center fielder Reggie Williams raced to his right.
Each heard the other call for the ball, hesitated, then realized the other had slowed so they both accelerated.
It was a head-on collision.
Mike lay face-down in the outfield for ten minutes. He was unconscious for a while.
He was placed on a backboard, lifted onto a cart, and taken off the field through the bullpen gate to an ambulance that raced him to the hospital.
Initially he was diagnosed with the concussion and a torn thumb, which sidelined him for the rest of 1999.
In the spring of 2000, Mike’s non-throwing shoulder was bothering him. The doctors finally decided he’d suffered a torn labrum in the collision that had somehow gone undetected. So Mike underwent surgery again, and missed all of 2000.
At the end of the year, disabled lists are deactivated, so clubs have to either protect a player on the 40-man roster so move him through waivers to a minor league roster. The Angels tried to sneak Mike through waivers, but he was claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They had ten days to put him on their 40-man roster, but they didn’t, and he was claimed by the San Diego Padres.
And so began an odyssey that took Mike from team to team, hoping to recapture what had once been.
2001 was with the Padres. 2002 was with the A’s. 2003 was with the Blue Jays. 2004 and 2005 were with the Marlins.
He had brief opportunities here and there to return to the majors — 50 games in 2001 with the Padres as a reserve, 20 games with the A’s in 2002 mostly as a pinch-hitter or late-inning specialist. In 71 games overall in his major league career, he had 116 at-bats, posting a line of .233/.305/.371.
In 2006, Mike returned to the Marlins and was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque. He suffered yet another injury, and since then has undergone multiple surgeries.
I heard from Mike in e-mail the other day. He said he runs a baseball school at home in Northern Virginia called Fundamentals of the Game. It averages about 875 students a year and is reportedly the largest operation in Virginia.
This is the time of year when minor league free agents are about to hit the market, and organizations start looking to hire coaches and roving instructors. I’d love to see Mike come home to the Angels, either as an outfielder at Salt Lake, or maybe as a minor league hitting coach. Mike has unfinished business with Fate and the Angels, and maybe the karmic scales would be balanced if he had one more chance to wear the halo.