If most of you were like me you were getting pretty nervous the Angels were going to lose Mike Trout to the Phillies in two years, especially with Bryce Harper actively recruiting him, plus the fact that Trout would be close to home.
However, waking up Tuesday morning to the news that the Angels and Trout had agreed to a record-deal made my heart leap for joy (it also almost made me run off the road). Knowing that the Angels were going to have Mike Trout for the rest of his career put a smile on my face that still hasn’t worn off today, 24 hours later.
Some critics may say its a mistake to give one player, even Mike Trout, the consensus best player in baseball a contract that is worth close to half a billion dollars. This is where I would tell any critics that they are dead wrong.
Wouldn’t the Boston Red Sox like to take back selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees 100 years ago? You bet they would! It may be too early to give Mike Trout the kind of legendary status of Babe Ruth, but if he ends up being the player most people think he will be by the time his career is done, if the Angels allowed him to walk away it would have been known as Arte’s (Moreno) Folly.
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Let’s look past the stats for a minute and look at Mike Trout the person. What makes Mike Trout so special is not only is he an amazing player, but an amazing person as well. I have the opportunity to interact with Trout many times either when interviewing him or just watching him go about his business in the dugout in his interactions with his teammates, fans, coaches, and reporters. Mike Trout is First-Class all the way.
Who wouldn’t want Mike Trout being the face of their franchise. Thank you Arte and Billy (Eppler) for recognizing this fact and getting this deal done, albeit I know it wasn’t cheap, it was well worth it.
Still not convinced that the Angels made the right decision in breaking Arte’s piggy bank to sign Trout I have a little more for you to chew on.
A few years ago I had the chance to travel to San Bernadino and cover Mike Trout during his rehab from a thumb injury. What I heard down there from the Angels minor league staff, players, and from Trout himself convinced me back then that he was a keeper.
My first real personal interaction with Mike Trout was interviewing him the first day he was there for the Inland Empire. I posed a question to Mike and he ponder it and delivered a very memorable answer. I asked Trout what did he miss the most being on the disabled list. His answer was simple. “I miss being with the guys and battling each day. It’s really weird to be sitting on the couch at home and watch my guys playing in Minnesota and knowing I can’t be there to battle with them.”
A lot of great players may have a similar answer to Mike Trout, but just the way he said it with so much passion you knew it was truly killing Trout to not be playing with the Angels.
The next interaction I had with Trout that stuck with me was three days later on the last day of his rehab assignment. Trout struggled a little in the first two games going 1 for 7 (.143) and looking a rusty. However, in his third rehab game Trout started to look like Mike Trout again. In the first inning he singled and then stole second base pointing and laughing toward his 66’ers teammates in the dugout as he slid into second feet first. Trout ended up going three-for-three and then you knew he was ready to return to Anaheim.
After the game a veteran reporter who was there covering Trout’s night posed a question to him and this time Trout did not hesitate with his response. The question that was posed to him was “It looked like you were having fun out there today compared to the last two days. Was that the case?”
Trout actually looked at the reporter with a glare that looked almost like he was saying really? His answer was succinct and showed his passion for the game. “I’m always having fun out there every time I play. I love this game.” The passion Trout shows for the game of baseball is almost second to none. Baseball is not a job to him, it is something he loves. If you truly love something you will do anything to keep doing it and get better at it which is exactly what Mike Trout does every day.
The final thing that sticks with me was an interview I had with then 66’ers Manager Chad Tracy who had been around the game for a number of years and seen many great players play. I asked Tracy what makes Mike Trout great.
Most people would have expected Tracy to answer with something about his tremendous skills and knowledge of the game, but Tracy went a different direction.
“Mike has a tremendous work ethic. He leaves no stone unturned. Mike was here early for batting practice and he took time to meet with our hitting coach to get a report on the pitchers he would face that night,” Tracy said. “Then he went to our defensive coach and asked him where he should play on certain hitters that night. His work ethic was such a great example for our young players here. The last thing that struck me was in the 8th inning and us leading 12-1, Mike busted his butt down the first baseline to beat out a double play in an “A” ball game. He didn’t need to that, but that is what makes him who he is. The best player in baseball.”
If I’m an owner, general manager, manager, teammate, or fan this is all you can ask for of a guy who also has some of the best all-around talent in the last 25 years at least. The Angels made a great decision to make Mike Trout the cornerstone of their franchise for the next 12 years. Enough said.