Less than two months after he joined the LA Angels’ Major League roster, Dustin Garneau made history. Less than one month after that, he was designated for assignment, and has rejoined the Oakland A’s.
There’s no flash to former LA Angels catcher Dustin Garneau. The 31 year-old catcher who has played parts of five seasons across five organizations, the Rockies, A’s, White Sox, Angels, and now a return trip to Oakland all on the itinerary for the San Pedro, California native.
In many ways that makes him a throwback, the well-traveled, defensive-minded backstop, one who hits well enough to make a camp and probably start a season in AAA, finding himself called upon when injury or ineffectiveness makes his services needed at the big league level. The sort of catcher who quickly learns his way around a pitching staff, makes himself useful, and hopes he can stick around.
It was this attitude which endeared Garneau to Angels fans during a particularly tough season in Orange County. A former high school football star who picked up baseball seriously at Cal State Fullerton, Garneau helped the Titans to the nation’s fourth lowest team ERA, and was a key piece of the 2009 Titans team, who made it to the College World Series.
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Dustin Garneau was called up by the Angels on May 22nd, following a concussion to back up catcher Kevan Smith. It was a minor move in what was at the time a forgettable season for the Angels. Garneau, however, would go on to put up a 0.7 WAR in 28 games in Angels red, posting a .702 OPS and showing confidence at the plate that was not present before in his career. Behind the dish, Garneau would throw out 33% of would-be base stealers, ahead of Jonathan Lucroy, who is also no longer an Angel, and Kevan Smith, who remains as the backup. Garneau helped Angels pitchers to a 4.33 ERA when he was catching, better than Lucroy’s 5.30, though Garneau’s was in a relatively small sample size. Garneau served as the Angels main catcher when Lucroy got injured and Smith was also on the IL in early July.
Though Dustin Garneau only played 28 games with the Los Angeles Angels, he figured prominently in one of the greatest moments in team history. Garneau was behind the plate in one of the most improbable games in the storied history of Angels baseball and maybe even MLB., Garneau caught the combined no-hitter thrown by Taylor Cole and Felix Peña in the Angels’ emotional return home following the death of Tyler Skaggs.
In this most incredible of stories, the journeyman catcher from Los Angeles County, a 19th round draft pick, expertly handled a game when emotions were raw and omnipresent. Garneau, noted by teammates from Fullerton and his professional stops in the game for his toughness and leadership, was able to tune out the noise and keep the pitching staff loose on a night no one in Anaheim will ever forget , and possibly across the country.
Dustin Garneau leaves the Angels with a small statistical footprint. What started as an enjoyable stop near his hometown to play for the local Angels ended with Garneau leaving an indelible mark on the history of the franchise and hearts of the fans. In an emotional rollercoaster of a season filled with loss and the most difficult of times, Garneau factored into the greatest moment of the season tremendously.
In the kind of night in which so many things must go right for the outcome to be what it is, fate put Dustin Garneau behind the plate for a night of staggering coincidences.
The Oakland A’s are a great landing place for Garneau. The division rivals are firmly in the playoff chase, he’s still close to home on a team he’s familiar with, and the A’s will find use for his ability to handle pitchers and his newfound batting stroke.
But somewhere, etched in the immortality of memory, Dustin Garneau, from San Pedro, California, is forever an Angel.