Baseball - Trout becomes biggest fish in Angels' pond

Mike Trout may be only 21 and a genuine small-town product but he already commands more of the spotlight in a star-studded Los Angeles Angels clubhouse than two former winners of the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.

Reuters

Step aside Dominican-born slugger Albert Pujols, a three-times National League (NL) MVP. Move over former Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, the 2010 American League (AL) MVP.

When the Angels launched their promotional schedule during spring training in Arizona last month, four of the seven giveaway items featuring specific players were for Trout.

A bobblehead doll, a kids-size jersey, a pint glass and a blanket - all of them with the distinctive Trout leaping out from the front.

Of the remaining three items, there was one each for Pujols, Mark Trumbo and C.J. Wilson, with Hamilton notably left out.

Unquestionably Trout has become the face of the franchise after thrilling baseball fans last year with one of the best ever seasons achieved by a rookie.

The 21-year-old, who used to play for the Thunderbolts of Millville High School in New Jersey where his father Jeff taught and coached football, hit 30 home runs, 83 RBI, batted .326 and led Major League Baseball (MLB) with 49 stolen bases to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

He also earned a Silver Slugger Award while he finished runner-up to Miguel Cabrera in the AL MVP Award voting.

UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT

Ever since he joined the Angels one month into last season, Trout has been under the spotlight and his astonishing form from that day on has ensured that he has remained front and centre.

"Everywhere I go, I hear my name whispered: 'That's Trout! That's Trout!'" the outfielder told reporters during spring training. "You see my name everywhere. I don't mind it. It's pretty cool. It means a lot to me.

"People have been great to me," Trout added, referring to all the promotional merchandise along with the media hype. "It hasn't been too crazy yet. I'm having fun with it. You can only do this one time.

"We've got high expectations and everybody has to do their role. I've just got to go play the game. I can't worry about it. If you think about it, you just put pressure on yourself."

Players like Trout are few and far between and the Angels knew they had unearthed something special when they called him up for his MLB debut on July 8, 2011 to replace the injured Peter Bourjos in center field.

Trout went 0 for 3 with 2 flyouts and a groundout that night, at 19 becoming the youngest player to make his Angels debut in the majors since Andy Hassler in May 30, 1971.

Two weeks shy of his 20th birthday, he became the third teenager to homer for the Angels and, by the end of his 2011 campaign, was regarded as the sport's top prospect by several scouts and baseball publications.

Trout, the 25th overall pick by the Angels in the 2009 draft, more than fulfilled those lofty expectations with his stellar 2012 season. Now he and his advisors face a tricky balancing act in trying to handle media demands for his time.

"He needs to know to say 'no' sometimes to people, because I know everybody is going to want a piece of him," Pujols offered by way of advice.

Trout's father Jeff agreed, saying: "You feel bad but you just have to say 'no,' or he wouldn't have any time."

View comments (0)