Small town dreams turned into big league realities for 23 year-old Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Mike Trout.
A high school star from Millville, N.J., populated by just over 28,000, Trout was the best player in his small geographical area. Fast forward six short years, and he’s arguably the best player in the world.
When Trout stepped into the box for his first major league at-bat, expectations were high. After all, the future-star had shined in the minor leagues and climbed his way to the no. 1 spot on ESPN’s Keith Law’s top 100 prospect list in 2011. He struck out that at bat, and was retired the next two. Slow progressions through the next few weeks brought improvements in Trout’s productivity at the major league level, but things just weren’t quite right. Trout was sent back to Double-A Arkansas less than two months after being called up. Little did we know, this was just the beginning.
On Apr. 28, 2012, Trout returned and never looked back. You could say the rest is history, but this is history still in the making. Since that warm April afternoon, Trout has taken Major League baseball by storm. His top-notch defensive ability, combined with one of the best bats in baseball leaves fans across the country with dropped jaws night in and night out. Top sports reporters have drawn comparisons to players like Mickey Mantle and Tris Speaker. The hype is growing every day around No. 27.
What makes Trout so extraordinary is the way he handles that hype. You won’t see him acting out or getting a big head, you just see him play ball. He steps out on the field every night to play ball, and once he’s in that zone, watch out.
Some still say that Trout is “over-hyped,” but numbers don’t lie. In his rookie season, Trout posted a .328 average with 30 homeruns and 83 RBI’s. Add in 49 stolen bases and 129 runs scored in 139 games played, and you’re looking at some of the greatest rookie season stats of all time. Trout unanimously won the American League Rookie of the Year award, and finished second to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera in MVP voting.
Trout was dominant that first year, and the MLB was caught off guard. A young kid from south Jersey was doing things that the baseball world had never seen before. Climbing the wall to rob a homerun became normal at Angel Stadium. Trout was changing the game, and baseball fans were quick to jump on board.
As time has passed, Trout has only continued to grow. His second season finished similarly to his first, second in MVP voting to Miguel Cabrera, but that far from defines the impressive 2013 season from #27. Despite a small drop in homeruns and runs scored, Trout finished with a nearly identical batting average (.323), 14 more RBI’s (97), a better on-base percentage (.432), all while nearly doubling his walks (110). But, again the train kept chugging.
In 2014, Trout finally got his MVP trophy. Winning unanimously, Trout hoisted the trophy in a season where he saw his batting average drop under .300 for the first time in his short two-year career. How? The answer may lie in the numbers. Trout exploded with career highs in homeruns (36) and RBI’s (111), both in the top’s for the league as well.
Also, Trout posted a 7.9 WAR, which refers to the number of wins a player adds to the team, compared to what a AAA or AA player would. Trout’s 7.9 WAR was the third highest in the past three seasons. Who are the other two? Mike Trout and Mike Trout. In his rookie season, Trout posted an out-of-this-world 10.8 WAR. Anything above an 8.0 is considered “MVP” caliber by the creators of the WAR system on fangraph.com, which gives Trout one of the highest rookie WAR’s of all time.
The next season, Trout’s 8.9 WAR led the league again. Despite a bit of a downfall from his WAR stat, Trout made up with his improvements in homeruns and RBIs. His bat continues to grow in different areas every season due to his ability to adjust.
This past season, reports began to surface that Trout struggles with pitches up in the zone. This offseason, Trout was even quoted in the Los Angeles Times saying, “Plain and simple, I was chasing the high pitch.” So what did he do? He began to work on it. Small adjustments in the way he works pitches and what pitches he takes have helped Trout lay off of the high pitches that he so often chased in the past. His ability to adjust is what makes No.27 such a unique ball player.
Trout’s hitting is remarkable, no argument there. But, his defense is what takes his value to the next level. On June 27, 2012, in a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, Trout made his first of many super human catches. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy ripped a ball to the right center field gap that looked long gone. Super-Trout to the rescue. Mike flung into action and approached the fence, leaping into mid-air and making a miraculous catch to rob Hardy of a clear homerun. A stunned Baltimore crowd could do nothing but stare. Plays like this soon became a normal occurrence in Trout’s resume.
His speed is strong, and his glove speaks for itself. If there is one “tool” in the infamous “five-tool” player that Trout lacks, it may be his arm, but it has never been a struggle for Trout to gun a ball straight to third or home when he needed to.
So it stands true, some times small town dreams can turn into reality. Trout only continues to progress, and the sky truly is the limit. Could the young man from south Jersey one day be mentioned with names like Ruth and Williams as one of the greatest to ever play? Only time can tell, but for now, baseball fans can sit back and enjoy history in the making as Trout swims to the sea of Major League Baseball greats.
AJ Arcaini is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at AA788494@wcupa.edu