08/12/11 11:20 PM ET
Wells enjoys warm reception, homer in return
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
Wells came to the plate in the second inning and was greeted by a standing ovation. He stepped out of the batter's box and tipped his helmet to the crowd he played in front of for 12 years.
The 32-year-old then sent the first pitch he saw from right-hander Brandon Morrow over the left-center field wall for his 17th home run of the year.
"I just tried to hold back the emotion in that moment," Wells said following his team's 5-1 victory. "I didn't think there would be much [emotion] but there was and I just tried to enjoy it, and obviously not be a crybaby at home plate.
"It's just a moment I'll never forget. My family came up, my kids miss being here. This has been a special place in my life. It's a place where [we] got to grow up and become who we are today. So, I owe a lot to this city."
The Blue Jays displayed a video tribute for their former star prior to the game. It outlined his accomplishments in a Blue Jays uniform and particularly focused on his charitable work off the field.
Wells played a major role in the Jays Care Foundation during his tenure in Toronto and spent a lot of time and money working with amateur baseball around the city.
To honor his accomplishments, the Jays Care Foundation made a $40,000 donation to the Salvation Army on behalf of the Wells family.
Wells was hopeful he would once again be embraced by the Blue Jays fan base, but even just a couple of hours before the game he wasn't sure how they were going to react.
"It wasn't something where I wanted out," Wells said. "I don't think I did too much to really [tick] too many people off ... I think I left on good enough terms to hopefully where it will be a good reaction and if not, I'll get in the box and try to hit a homer."
Wells ended up getting the cheers, but hit a home run anyway.
Since joining the Angels, he can't avoid being the brunt of jokes whenever the Blue Jays come up in conversations.
"It's funny," said Wells, who was traded to the Angels during the offseason for Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli. "Any time I'm in the clubhouse and a Blue Jays highlight comes on, or the game's on, and if I stop to watch the game for a split second I get yelled at, 'Cut the cord, move on' and all kinds of stuff.
"But it's a few months into it now, it's obviously sunk in and it's fun to be able to see the guys on TV, but I'm an Angel and I've fully embraced that."
Wells now finds himself in a playoff race for the first time in his career. The Angels entered play on Friday just two games behind the American League West-leading Rangers.
The three-time All-Star has enjoyed the team's success, but the personal accolades haven't come as easily this season. Wells is batting .208, which is well below his career average of .275.
The results haven't been there, but Blue Jays manager John Farrell said he remains a major threat at the plate.
"He's a dangerous hitter there's no question," Farrell said. "If you made a mistake up or in the middle part of the plate or on the inner half, [he's a] very good fastball hitter that could really turn on a fastball.
"I've always remembered him as a premium defender in center field and just a multi-talented player. That was the view across the field and you had to make pitches or else he had the ability to hurt you."
Wells had trouble living up to the hype surrounding the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed in 2006, but he remains one the most prolific hitters in franchise history.
The native of Texas ranks second among all-time Blue Jays in runs (789), hits (1,529), doubles (343), home runs (223) and RBIs (813). He also ranks first in at-bats (5470) and second in games played with 1,393.
Wells was a leader in the Toronto clubhouse and it should surprise no one that he took time near the end of his news conference to praise the club's future potential under general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
"I think the direction is great," Wells said. "I think this is something that Alex has been working hard at ... acquiring young talent and being able to put a team on the field that is going to compete for years.
"Being out of the East now, and watching it from afar, you see how difficult of a climb it is because they've played pretty decent baseball and they're 14 games back. It's not an easy division, but it can be done."
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB b>. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.