ARLINGTON -- On the flat screen in a corner of the visitors' clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark on Saturday afternoon, the Huntington Beach (Calif.) Ocean View Little League's most famous alum watched the hometown kids knock off Montana to set up Sunday's grand finale of the Little World Series against Japan in Williamsport, Pa.
"A lot of memories," Hank Conger said, riveted on the action. "We were one game short of making it to Williamsport in 2000. We got beat by Hazeldale, Washington, 3-2, in the regionals in San Bernardino. I was 5-6, 5-7 and 180 pounds. I played shortstop and pitched. Hit 33 homers in 38 games."
When teammate Mark Trumbo arched an eyebrow, Conger said, "Dude, I was humongous when I was 12."
Conger, whose father was forced to change occupations when he refused to stop coaching his son's Little League team, had come close to reaching Williamsport a few years earlier. He remained with his team, the Reds, even though travel ball was starting to take off at the time.
"I really wanted a chance to go all the way like this year's team," Conger said. "Last year's team also missed by a game. They came to see us [at Angel Stadium]. I've met some of the kids in camps."
Soon after Little League, Conger gave up shortstop and the mound for a catcher's responsibilities. The Angels' first-round Draft pick in 2006 out of Huntington Beach High School, the switch-hitter is the team's third catcher, hoping to make a few more memories down the stretch.
Trout enjoying experience against Rangers
ARLINGTON -- In the heat, and we do mean heat, of a division race, Mike Trout found his name on the Angels' lineup card on Saturday against Rangers ace C.J. Wilson.
"Being part of this rivalry, it's a good experience," Trout said. "I feel good at the plate. I lowered my stance a little bit to see the ball better. I felt I wasn't getting a good look at some lower pitches, so I got down a little. They're going to keep pounding it down there."
Trout lined a single to right center and struck out as a late entry in Friday night's series opener. With five hits in his past 13 at-bats, he is hitting .211 with two homers and seven RBIs in 19 games this season.
Trout is no longer a teen, having turned 20 on Aug. 7 while he was with Double-A Arkansas. The Topps "Minor League Player of the Year" last season, the New Jersey phenom clearly has earned the confidence of manager Mike Scioscia.
"It's a baseball game, and he's playing well," Scioscia said when asked about playing Trout and sitting veteran Bobby Abreu, with Torii Hunter in the DH role. "Torii still needs to stay fresh.
"We're going to go with who's on our roster, playing them in any situation. I'm not going to hesitate to use him."
Branyan accepting role as a bench player
ARLINGTON -- At 35, having worn the uniforms of one-third of the franchises forming the Major Leagues, Russell Branyan has come to a point where he is comfortable with whatever his manager wants him to be.
In the case of the Angels and Mike Scioscia, that means occasionally carrying his bat to the plate with the notion of hitting a ball out of the yard, something he has done once every 15.1 at-bats in his career. Only 16 players have homered with more frequency.
"I try to keep a good strike zone, have pitch awareness, that sort of thing," Branyan said. "It's no easy task."
Branyan homered in Friday night's 11-7 loss to the Rangers, a three-run shot against reliever Yoshinori Tateyama. It was his fourth homer, with 10 RBIs, in his past 19 at-bats, dating to July 1.
"It's more of a mindset," said Branyan, who went deep 31 times for the Mariners in 2009 and 25 times for the Mariners and Indians last season. "It's owning your role. If you're not happy in your role, it's hard to produce. It's important to enjoy your role and enjoy your team.
"I'm at a certain point where I'm accepting this bench role. You can't fight it. If you do, you're going to struggle. When I was a starting player, I never wanted to hear a bench player complaining, saying they can do your job. We've got some good guys on this bench."
Branyan is 3-for-8 as a pinch-hitter with two homers. The rest of the club is 5-for-45 without a homer.
Wilson back behind the plate in Texas heat
ARLINGTON -- Bobby Wilson's waist line is diminishing as his role is expanding.
"I'll probably drop seven to 10 pounds on a night like this," Wilson said, preparing for his second consecutive start behind the plate for the Angels in triple digits at Rangers Ballpark. "It's all water weight. I'm drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated."
Wilson had become an afterthought, watching Jeff Mathis and Hank Conger share most of the catching duties, before handling Ervin Santana's no-hitter on July 27 in Cleveland.
Wilson has caught each of Santana's starts since the masterwork. When he got the call on Saturday night, catching Santana and facing Texas ace C.J. Wilson, it marked just the second time this season he has made consecutive starts. Wilson was Dan Haren's receiver in the series opener.
"I'm seeing the ball a little better, getting some better swings," Wilson said, carrying a modest four-game hitting streak. He's batting .293 against lefties, .108 against right-handers.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.