He looked. He leaped. He caught. It was that simple because Mike Trout made it look that way. The 20-year-old Angels’ center fielder robbed Baltimore’s shortstop J.J. Hardy of a home run in the first inning of today’s game against the Orioles. It was the top play on SportsCenter tonight, but the rookie Trout is no newcomer to being at the top.
Coming into Wednesday he led the American league in batting average at .344. That’s ahead of Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton, Derek Jeter, and so many other stars. Though that’s not the only thing Trout’s ahead of; he’s ahead of the past, the expectations, and somehow reality.
Last summer the kid was a nobody. At age 19, Trout was called up from the minor leagues to play for the Angels last July. In 40 games, he hit .220. He was drafted only two years earlier as the Angels’ 25th pick in the first round so his struggles were no surprise.
Trout went into spring training this season determined to make the team. But he caught a virus and not only lost 10 pounds but also his dreams of making the opening day roster.
Trout though would make his return sooner rather than later. On April 28th the Angels were reeling at 6-14 and in last place in the division, nine games behind the Texas Rangers. The team made the decision, possibly a season-saving decision, to release the veteran Bobby Abreu and call up Trout again, who was batting .403 in Class AAA Salt Lake.
Since he joined the team, the Angels are 35-19 and only 4.5 games behind the major-league-best Texas Rangers.
He’s been the catalyst behind the Angels resurrection. As the teams’ leadoff hitter, he has 21 walks, 14 doubles, and 21 steals in 52 games. Move aside Kobe Bryant, the LA M-V-P chants belong to Mike Trout now.
Only the Boston Red Sox’s Fred Lynn in 1975 and the Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 won Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. Trout has the chance to join them in this elite category.
Still Lynn was 23 at the time and Ichiro was 28. Trout is 20; heck he’s not even legally old enough to drink. (So don’t ask him to celebrate his accomplishments with a beer because that’s a clown question bro)
His speed is startling and he’s football-player-like-build adds to his durability. Baseball analysts marvel at his swing, his mechanics, and his character. They can’t find any holes in his game. (In other breaking news, twenty-nine major league general managers were put on suicide watch as of Wednesday.)
Trout, from Millville, New Jersey, is known as the ‘Mickey Mantle of Millville’, but quietly baseball analysts have murmured his ceiling may be Mickey Mantle. Most baseball general managers agree they wouldn’t trade Trout one-for-one for any player in the league.
It’s going to be Mike Trout’s league for the next decade or so. If you can believe it, it’s his league now.