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Former Myrtle Beach Pelican Andrus cements presence with Texas Rangers

As Josh Hamilton stood in right field before batting practice Tuesday talking to the Coastal Carolina baseball players, he says he was asked if Texas Rangers shortstop - and former Myrtle Beach Pelican - Elvis Andrus was out on the field yet.

"I said, 'No, you'll be able to hear him when he comes out because he loves to talk,' " Hamilton quipped later.

Andrus has apparently established himself as a big personality - not to mention an American League All-Star - in his time with the Texas Rangers since coming over in a trade from the Atlanta Braves organization in 2007.

And four seasons after his tenure with the Pelicans, he returned to BB&T Coastal Field for Texas' exhibition game Tuesday night against Coastal with fond memories of one of his stops along the way.

"It was a big deal for me to come back in here and see my old friends and just play in this stadium again," Andrus said after taking some pre-game cuts in the cage. "There's a lot of excitement going through my mind right now, but at the same time I've got to try to enjoy it and just develop myself and get ready for the season."

Andrus hit .244 with 25 stolen bases in 99 games as a developing talent with the Pelicans in 2007 before being shipped to the Rangers organization in a trade that brought Mark Teixeira to Atlanta.

"I made a lot of good plays that year," Andrus said, reflecting back. "I didn't really hit that much, but my defense was at the tops."

That standout defense has quickly earned him a reputation in Texas and helped net him his first All-Star nod last year in his second big league season with the Rangers, while he hit .265 with 32 stolen bases.

Needless to say, as one of baseball's emerging young players, he never really thought he'd find himself back along the Carolina League roadmap and back at BB&T Coastal Field.

"When you're in the minor league, you're out of here, you keep [on] your way to the big league, [you think] you're never going to get back in the minor leagues, or A-ball," Andrus said. "But at this point, it's really great right now, and I'm really having fun."

Of the various minor league destinations on his path to the majors, he says Myrtle Beach was his favorite.

"For me, that was the best," he said. "That's the best city that I played [in]. And it's a lot of fun. A lot of distractions are here, but at the same time, it teaches you how to [handle] the big league level. So I'm really glad to play here in '07, and now I'm back here for one game, but it will be a lot of fun."

One of the familiar faces he saw Tuesday night was Coastal Carolina student assistant coach Jerry Oakes, whom Andrus played with in the Braves minor league system.

They got to talk before the game, and Oakes said that big personality Hamilton referenced was the same back when they were minor leaguers together.

"That was the fun thing about playing with him," Oakes said. "He just brought everybody's spirits up whether he was struggling or not. He made it fun for us every day."

And nothing's changed.

"It's the most impressive thing - he's just the same person all the time," Oakes said. "I have all the respect in the world for him. ... He's a humble individual."

Asked how much Andrus had talked about Myrtle Beach with his Rangers teammates in advance of their trip here, Hamilton said the young shortstop hadn't shared many details - or at least many that he could understand.

"I'm sure he did in Spanish," Hamilton said playfully. "... He just said he came through here, and obviously it was one of his stops on the way to where he is now. And he's doing a really great job for us at shortstop. He's probably one of the best defensive shortstops I've seen in a long time."

Local baseball fans probably haven't forgotten that about him.

Andrus could sense a mutual excitement for his return, and there was a nice applause for him before the game as he was introduced as a former Pelican, but above all, this was still technically a business trip with the Rangers' season opener looming on Friday. And that's where he tried to keep his focus.

"A lot of people for sure want to see me play again," he said. "And for me, [it's] just another day, trying to come here, work out my things that I need to get done for the season and just have fun."