Kendrick excited to build legacy in Anaheim

Kendrick excited to build legacy in Anaheim

Published Jan. 10, 2012 1:40 p.m. ET

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Just down Katella Avenue sits Disneyland, known for decades as the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

Tuesday, about a two-mile drive east on Katella, J.T. Schmid's Restaurant and Brewery borrowed Walt Disney's marketing phrase for a couple of hours.

Sporting a large smile and a new four-year, $33.5 million contract extension, Howie Kendrick met with the media and was every bit as ecstatic as Mickey, Donald or Goofy.

“I truly wanted to be a part of this organization, stay a part of this organization,” said the All-Star second baseman. “And I'm very happy to be sitting here today with this extension and still be a part of this championship-caliber team.

“We made a lot of additions this offseason and we've gotten a lot better, and I heard from a lot of our fans who were so excited and told me to stay. It's definitely special to stay with the (team) where I grew up (as a player).

“I can't express how happy I am. I can't even find the words. I'm definitely glad to be staying in Anaheim, which is like a second home for me.”

The Arizona native will head to spring training in Tempe next month coming off the best all-around season of his career.

In addition to making his first American League All-Star team, he belted a career high 18 home runs, with a slugging percentage of .464 and an OPS of .802, both also career highs. He batted .285, drove in 63 runs and was a versatile defensive player, logging 108 games at second, 23 in left field and 17 at first base, misplaying just five balls all season. Being only 28 years old, it's likely his best years are still to come.

“I definitely feel that way,” said Kendrick, who was accompanied by his wife Jody, sons Owen and Tyson and agent Larry Reynolds. “I could have tried out the free agent market after this season, but I really didn't want to. I talked with (Larry), and at the end of this deal I'm only going to be 32 years old, and there will be (another contract) out there for me, hopefully again with the Angels.”

Kendrick was asked if the signing of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson played any importance in his decision to pass up the free agent market and re-up with the Halos.

"Not really," he said.

“We were a good organization before those signings,” he said. “And I can't say their signings really encouraged me to stay. This is where I want to be, no doubt. I've been here since (2006), and I've grown up in this organization. This organization is second-to-none for me. We won a lot last year; we just didn't win enough. And having those guys here now will help us put more W's up there. But like I said, I love it here and am glad I'll be here for at least four more years.”

General manager Jerry Dipoto was also pleased to have Kendrick's situation wrapped up as he tries to to the same with shortstop Erick Aybar, infielder Alberto Callaspo and long-injured first baseman Kendrys Morales. All are arbitration eligible.

“This was a very big domino for us to see fall into place,” said Dipoto, who is joining Angels management in Arizona for two days of organizational meetings. “Howie is such and important piece of this lineup, important piece of this team and organization. This helps build a Howie Kendrick legacy as an Angel, and it gives us what I believe is a very well-rounded player. He's done nothing but improve since the day he stepped on the field in the big leagues.”

Dipoto added that it was great to have a player who shows as much love for a team as Kendrick does for the Angels.

“Absolutely,” he said. “And it's refreshing in this day and time to see the smile and to see how respectful he is to everyone around the organization. Those are all important traits to building the right kind of environment.

“When I took the job, I said it was important to build a winning environment and establishing a culture that essentially breeds the next generation of players. I think players like Howie go a long way toward doing that.”

As Kendrick was leaving to head back to Arizona, he turned to a reporter and asked what it's been like to witness the reaction of the fans to the great things the Halos have done since the season ended. Told that the Angels have nearly surpassed the Lakers in fan interest, he looked shocked for a moment, then flashed one of those Howie Kendrick smiles.

“I can't wait for spring training,” he said.