By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Buckeye Union High School graduate Kole Calhoun calls signing a two-year deal with the D-backs “a dream come true.”
The terms of the contract were not disclosed.
“I was born and raised here, so I grew up a Diamondbacks fan,” Calhoun says. “As a kid, I always dreamed of playing for the Diamondbacks and now I have the opportunity and I couldn’t be more excited.”
His former team, the Los Angeles Angels, bought out for $1 million the $14 million option on Calhoun’s contract.
“When the Angels decided to decline my option, (the D-backs) were calling,” he says.
“I think just for me, personally, I wanted to be on a team who wanted me. Having that phone call the very first day and for the Diamondbacks to be so engaging, it was something I wanted.”
Calhoun, 32, ranks third among all AL outfielders since 2014 in RBI (416) and total bases (1,406), trailing Mike Trout/LAA (533 RBI/1,758 TB) and Mookie Betts/BOS (455 RBI/1,616 TB), respectively.
Additionally, Calhoun is fourth during that span, with 132 home runs, behind Trout (217), George Springer/HOU (149) and Betts (137), and 821 hits, which are fewer than only Betts (935), Trout (881) and Brett Gardner/NYY (834).
Defensively, the former Arizona State Sun Devil (2009-10) is a four-time American League Rawlings Gold Glove Award finalist in right field (2015, 2017-2019), including winning the top fielding award in 2015. In the last five years (2015-19), Calhoun leads all right fielders with 6,478 innings and 45 assists.
A 2006 Buckeye Union High School graduate, Calhoun will become the sixth D-back to play baseball in high school, college (four-year university) and the Major Leagues in Arizona (also: Jake Barrett, Tuffy Gosewisch, Merrill Kelly, Cody Ransom and Ed Vosberg), and eighth Sun Devil to don a D-backs jersey (also: Willie Bloomquist, Jake Elmore, Mike Leake, Deven Marrero, Barrett, Gosewisch and Kelly). Calhoun was teammates with current D-backs pitcher Merrill Kelly at Yavapai College and ASU.
A Tempe resident, Calhoun set career highs in 2019 with the Angels in home runs (33), slugging pct. (.467), OPS (.792), extra-base hits (63) and runs scored (92).
Calhoun remembers watching the 2001 World Series between the Diamondbacks and the Yankees on television. Having the opportunity to play in Chase Field is exciting.
“It’s something that’s very, very special for me,” Calhoun says. “Getting to wear that uniform and representing the Diamondbacks is something I’m definitely looking forward to. I really can’t wait to get started.”
Calhoun admits the recent signing of former San Francisco Giants All-Star Madison Bumgarner further encouraged him to ink with the D-backs.
“That was another big factor for me,” he says. “As I was getting further along in my career, I wanted to go to a team who is really looking to win. This team has really made a splash with a free-agent arm. It’s really exciting, and all of these factors come into play.”
Playing for the D-backs fits his mold as a player, Calhoun adds.
“I’m go out and play really hard,” he says. “I leave it all out there on the field. I’m looking forward to fine tuning going into next season. Honestly, I’m going to come to the ballpark ready to compete.
“I know I’m definitely getting older—I mean, age is not really on my side and I know that—but recovery has become something that’s very vital to me.”
He’s thrilled, though, to join the likes of David Peralta, Bumgarner and Robbie Ray.
“We have a great group of guys,” he says. “The pieces they’ve added since last season, along with the core group of guys who are there, I’m just really excited about it.”