TEMPE, Ariz. – Through all the ups and downs, Howie Kendrick never forgets to offer his megawatt smile. It’s there when he talks about his second-half success in the major leagues last season and even when he talks about his demotion earlier in the year. “The neighborhood I grew up in was pretty tough, and I’d see things that would happen all the time,” Kendrick said of growing up in Callahan, Fla., just outside of Jacksonville. “My grandmother was one person that threw me into baseball, and I fell in love with it and she kept me playing.” Kendrick and his two sisters essentially were raised by their grandmother since their parents were busy with military commitments. Intent on keeping Kendrick off the streets, his grandmother kept pushing baseball, even when the rising young talent had a bout of insecurity at age 13. “I was moving up to the senior-league level with older guys and I was kind of afraid at that point,” Kendrick said. “I never really told anybody but I was like, `I’m not going to play this year.’ She was like, `No, you’re going to play. You’re definitely going to play.’ That was the one time I almost stopped playing, but she never let me quit.” Kendrick, undersized at the time but definitely not overmatched, played at age 13 and played well. The Angels’ second baseman of the future was well on his way. “Even though I thought about quitting, I still loved baseball and I’m glad I didn’t,” Kendrick said. “After I was over that hump, I just kept going.” Last season was the perfect example of Kendrick applying life lessons to baseball. He made his major-league debut April 26 against the Detroit Tigers and by May 14 was back in Triple-A after batting just .115 (3 for 26) with the big club. Kendrick was befuddled by off-speed and breaking pitches and he knew it. His demotion couldn’t have come at a better time, since Salt Lake was about to face a bevy of soft-throwing left-handers. “I needed to have that idea of when those guys are going to try to throw those breaking balls, or try to make those adjustments to you that you are making to them,” Kendrick said. “I just made the adjustments and tried to be patient and see the ball a little longer.” He was recalled again on July 14, which allowed him time to participate in the Futures Game during All-Star festivities before he left. The future indeed had arrived. He batted .500 (20 for 40) with the Angels in July and had a 16-game hit streak from July 16-Aug. 6. It was the longest rookie hitting streak by an American League hitter last season. The Angels already were planning on parting ways with free-agent Adam Kennedy, and Kendrick’s success made it a little easier to say good-bye to a well-liked veteran. Kendrick is up for the test and has no problem with the pressures that come with a “can’t miss” tag. “It’s not a burden really,” Kendrick said. “It’s fun and it can be anything you want it to be. I don’t make much of it. It’s just part of the game. If I can play well and people want to label me, let them label me. But for me, I’m not going to call myself anything because I’m just a baseball player and I love this game and I’m just going to play.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2731 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! It’s there when he talks about his off-season wedding in Maui to the newly named Jody Kendrick, whom the Angels’ can’t-miss kid met while playing in the Arizona Fall League in 2005. And that smile certainly is there – possibly as big as ever – when he talks about his grandmother, Ruth Woods. Without Woods, the Angels’ new starting second baseman would not have a baseball career, much less be compared to some of the greats of the game at the young age of 23.