By Larry Fine
ARLINGTON, Texas (Reuters) - Elvis Andrus grew up idolizing fellow-Venezuelan Omar Vizquel and his dazzling Major League Baseball skills at shortstop.
Now, playing in his second World Series, the 23-year-old Texas Rangers shortstop may be inspiring MLB's next generation of slick fielders.
His spectacular stab and flip toss from the glove for a critical out in Game Two against the St. Louis Cardinals has been the defensive gem of this year's Fall Classic.
The play led the highlight footage from Thursday's victory that put Texas level with St. Louis at 1-1 in the best-of-seven championship.
Andrus finally saw the replay himself when the Rangers were driving away from Busch Stadium after the game.
"I saw the play when I was on the bus on the Internet, me and Nelson Cruz," Andrus told reporters gathered around his locker during the Rangers' Friday workout in Texas, where the World Series resumes on Saturday.
"It was pretty good. I think it was a great play. The ball was hit pretty hard. I bet a lot of people thought that ball was going into centerfield."
With his diamond earrings twinkling and megawatt smile lighting up the Rangers locker room, Andrus said the quality of the play was magnified by the World Series.
"That it happened here makes everything bigger, the kind of play you're always going to remember," he said.
Andrus said he and his keystone partner, second baseman Ian Kinsler, practice special moves like that before games just in case the occasion demands it.
"You have to practice it, two or three times, for the feeling. It's a reaction play," he said.
"Your first thought is get to the ball. Then you have to deliver it. I think it was almost perfect, right to the base. It's one of those plays you don't know if you can make again."
Kinsler said that in their third season playing together, they were attuned to one another. Yet even he was impressed.
"It was just a ridiculous play, a game-saving play," Kinsler said. "That was awesome. To be part of something like that was great."
After the jaw-dropping play, Andrus further contributed to the much-needed Texas win with a single in their ninth-inning rally, and alertly moved to second base when the throw from the outfield kicked away from cut-off man Albert Pujols.
Andrus went on to score the winning run in the 2-1 victory.
Andrus, who stole 37 bases this year and also topped 30 in his first two seasons, can also influence games with his speed.
Last year, he scored from second base on a Josh Hamilton ground ball in the Rangers' playoff series against Tampa Bay.
Showing big promise as a 16-year-old amateur from Maracay, Venezuela, he signed with the Atlanta Braves for a bonus of more than $500,000.
The highly prized prospect was traded to Texas in a seven-player deal with Atlanta in July 2007 that sent Mark Teixeira to the playoff-chasing Braves and also brought the Rangers their current closer, Neftali Feliz, and Game Three starter Matt Harrison.
Andrus has begun making a name for himself with the more casual fan with his series exploits. Despite a relatively modest .279 batting average this season, Texas manager Ron Washington said his shortstop is a tough out at the plate.
"He's one of the biggest guys in our lineup when it comes to getting clutch base hits," said Washington.
Andrus is often asked if he was named after Elvis Presley. In a rare Andrus disappointment, the answer is no. But there is story behind the choice of Christian name.
His late father, Emilio, and his mother, Elvia, named their daughter Emily and their three sons Erikson, Erold and Elvis.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)