Howie Kendrick didn't exactly come out of nowhere, but he was in the neighborhood when Angels scout Tom Kotchman saw him.
The Angels' second baseman, in his sixth Major League season, spent a year at little-known St. Johns River State College in Palatka, Fla., after graduating from similarly obscure West Nassau High School on the outskirts of Jacksonville, Fla.
"St. Johns was the only school that offered me books and tuition and said they might have some extra money to pay for housing," Kendrick said. "I didn't have any money to pay for school, so the scholarship was huge. It was a no-brainer for me. I was very thankful for the opportunity.
"I thought I'd have to go to a bigger school to get my name out there, but that wasn't the case. If you play good teams and you play well and do the right things, I guess guys will find you."
Enter Kotchman, whose son, Casey, was called up by Tampa Bay when Manny Ramirez abruptly retired on April 8.
Kotchman is an Angels scout in his native Florida for nine months of the year. During June, July and August, he's manager of the Orem Owlz, the Angels' rookie-level team in the Pioneer League in Utah.
"Basically, I discovered Howie by accident," Kotchman said. "I was at a game in Tampa between Hillsborough and Brevard (community colleges), and Brevard coach Ernie Rosseau and I were talking and he mentioned a second baseman at St. Johns River."
Kotchman went to see Kendrick. "I put him on film and showed it to Donny Rowland," then the Angels' scouting director.
Kendrick said he told Kotchman that he planned to return to St. Johns River for his sophomore year, but that what he really wanted to do was play Major League baseball.
"He said the only way to get close to that was to sign," Kendrick said. "I trusted him a lot, and he never once led me in the wrong direction."
The Angels drafted him in the 10th round (294th overall) in 2002.
"People have told me I did a good job scouting him," Kotchman said. "No, I didn't. Sometimes you have to get lucky. If I knew he was going to be as good as he is, he wouldn't have gone in the 10th round."
Kotchman expected Kendrick to play for him in 2002 with the Provo Angels, who moved to neighboring Orem, Utah, two years later, "but we had Eric Aybar at short and Alberto Callaspo at second. So, Howie had to go to the rookie league in Arizona."
In 2003, Kotchman managed Kendrick in Provo. "I started him off batting in the three hole and he went 4-for-40, so I took the pressure off him and put him at the bottom of the order. It was quite a turnaround." Kendrick batted .423 in July and August and finished the season at .368.
Kendrick, now married and a father of two, split 2006 between the Angels and Triple-A Salt Lake. Since then, he's been pretty much a fixture at second base in Anaheim.
"I failed a lot at the start [of 2006]," he said. "I think that just made me more hungry. I got a taste of the Majors and got sent down. Once you get that close and you experience it but don't have success, it's like, 'Man I want to get back.'"
Bruce Lowitt is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.