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For Two Angels, Time to Reflect : Baseball: After loss to White Sox, Salmon and Snow look back on season and relationship. One is going home, the other on the road with the team.

September 24, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angel rookies Tim Salmon and J.T. Snow stared momentarily into one another's eyes Thursday, each wanting to say something, but the words just wouldn't come.

Instead, they clasped hands and slowly nodded at one another, as if this were the ultimate sign of gratitude, and most of all, respect.

It's difficult for them to believe they finally are parting, that after the Angels' 7-1 defeat by the Chicago White Sox in the Anaheim Stadium season finale, they probably won't see each other until spring training begins next February.

Salmon, whose right foot is in a walking cast and left ring finger is in a splint, is going home to Phoenix today. The next time he's scheduled to be in Anaheim will be for the November news conference the Angels are preparing for the American League rookie-of-the-year award.

Snow is headed to Kansas City with the Angels as they close out the season with a 10-game trip. Snow simply is playing to keep his starting job next season.

But it has been a season that exceeded Salmon's and Snow's wildest imaginations, Salmon's greatest dreams, and at times, Snow's worst fears.

Salmon thrived, earning recognition from his teammates as the Angels' most valuable player. Snow survived.

If it had not been for each other, Salmon and Snow wonder if all this could have been possible.

"J.T. took a lot of the pressure off me early," said Salmon, whose season ended last week when he fractured his finger, ending with a .283 batting average, 31 homers and 95 runs batted in. "There was so much attention on J.T., everyone left me alone. It allowed me just to concentrate on baseball, and I'm grateful for that.

"The numbers I put up were awesome. I mean, I never would have dreamed I'd have these kind of numbers my first year. But I'm sure after what I've done this year, there will be all these expectations next year.

"I'm sure people will be saying, 'Hey, he hit 30 homers his first year, he should hit 40 next year.' Well, I'm ready for it."

If anything, Salmon will be able to learn from Snow's mistakes. Snow hit .407 with six homers and 17 RBIs the first three weeks of the season, drawing comparisons to everyone from Wally Joyner to Mickey Mantle. By the end of July, he was at triple-A Vancouver and labeled a flop. He now is batting .229 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs.

"There were a couple of times I wondered what it would be like to play somewhere else," said Snow, who grew up in Orange County. "It was weird playing where you grew up. It was great when things were going good, but it was like I needed a place to hide when things were going bad.

"But it's over now, and I think I'm a better person for it. Believe me, I've learned a lot this year. I can look in the mirror and not have any regrets."

On a day when the Angels (68-84) looked absolutely helpless against White Sox starter Jack McDowell (22-10), getting only four hits, there still is the reigning optimism in the Angel organization that 1994 could be different.

"J.T. and Tim were great for each other," Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said. "Tim didn't have surrounding pressure of the local boy who makes good. J.T. made the mistake of wanting to please everybody.

"I think J.T. will be back. I hate to see anybody go through what he had to go through, but I really believe he'll be better for it.

"Maybe they both will."

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