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OC Register: Angels prospect Jack Kruger has fond memories of John Altobelli


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TEMPE, Ariz. — When the Angels don Orange Coast College caps for their game on Tuesday, it is going to have a little extra meaning for Jack Kruger.

Kruger, a 25-year-old catcher who finished last season at Double-A, played for coach John Altobelli at OCC in 2015, and he credited him for helping to get his baseball career going.

“He was amazing,” Kruger said of Altobelli, who died with his wife and daughter in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and five others last month. “He helped a lot of people, including me and my family. He was beloved by everyone. He was a legend in the junior college community and the Southern California community.”

Kruger played at Oaks Christian in Westlake Village, and then he began his college career at Oregon. Kruger said Oregon “was just not a great fit for me,” so he returned to Southern California and played for Altobelli at OCC in 2015.

After a season there, he transferred to Mississippi State for a season before getting drafted by the Angels.

Angels-2020-Baseball.jpg?fit=620%2C9999p
Angels minor league prospect Jack Kruger played for Coach John Altobelli at Orange Coast College. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Kruger said that Altobelli was instrumental in him getting back on track after the Oregon experience.

“He was all about the players,” Kruger said. “It was all about their development, their enjoyment of the game. Our careers, our futures, our families. It was never about him. That’s pretty uncommon in our world. I think he left a mark on a lot of people.”

The Angels were supposed to wear the OCC caps on Saturday, but the game was rained out. Then they waited until Tuesday, because that’s the day that most of the Angels regulars will make their spring debuts.

“It’s awesome,” Kruger said of the tributes with the caps. “When I heard we were doing this, I was stoked.”

RELIEVERS TO WATCH

Joe Maddon went out of his way on Monday morning to endorse two of the lesser known relievers in camp: Mike Mayers and Jacob Barnes.

Maddon said he was impressed with them while managing the Chicago Cubs in their division. Mayers had been with the St. Louis Cardinals and Barnes with the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I’ve seen these guys pitch and they’re good, really good,” Maddon said. “Those two guys could be very impactful, based on what I’ve seen in the past.”

Barnes, who is on a minor league deal, has pitched in 182 games over parts of four years. He has a career 4.25 ERA, but in 2018 he had a 3.33 ERA in 48-2/3 innings with the Brewers.

Mayers, who was claimed on waivers, has pitched in 73 games with the Cardinals over the past four seasons, with a 7.03 ERA. Despite the numbers, Maddon saw more.

“I really thought, from an opposing manager’s perspective, that he could have gotten more reps,” Maddon said.

ALSO

Félix Peña was scheduled to throw his second bullpen session of the spring on Monday morning. He said he’s also been fully participating in fielding drills. Peña is not sure yet if he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but Maddon said if he is on the Opening Day roster it would be as a reliever, because they won’t have time to build him up as a starter. Peña has options, so he could start in the minors until he’s build up to be a candidate to start in the majors.

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