Michael Nelson Trout was born on August 7, 1991 in Millville, New Jersey. (Click here for a complete listing of today's sports birthdays.) His parents, Jeff and Debbie, made a good Middle Class living.
Mike’s baseball prowess came courtesy of his dad. Jeff had been a high school star in Millville and a standout in college at the University of Delaware in the early 1980s. The Twins took him in the fifth round of the 1982 draft, and he played second and third base in their system for four seasons. Jeff hit well but never showed enough with the glove to get past Class-AA ball.
A knee injury convinced Jeff to give up his career after the 1986 campaign. He returned to Millville and became a history teacher and coach. Mike was born six years later. He shagged fly balls with high school kids and served as team bat boy for Millville Senior High as a boy.
Mike had more than tremendous athletic ability. He had tremendous patience for a kid. He could sit through an entire game on TV by the age of 8 and was years ahead of his youth-league teammates in terms of skill and demeanor. His coach in Ripken League and Little League, Mike Kavanagh, remembers that, at 9, Mike was one of the best players in a league of 12-year-olds.
Mike was a big kid, just like his dad. When he wasn’t burning fastballs over the plate, Mike could be found stationed at shortstop. He wore #2 in honor of his favorite player, Derek Jeter. He later switched to #1 in high school.
Under his father’s watchful eye, Mike developed sharp instincts and solid skills. He continued to pitch in high school (playing shortstop and center field when he wasn’t on the mound) and hit well, but it was his blinding speed that caught everyone’s eye. Again and again, he was timed under four seconds from the batter’s box to first base —an amazing time for a lefty. The only thing was, Mike was a righty.
Playing for the Millville Senior High Thunderbolts, Mike started making headlines as a sophomore for coach Roy Hallenbeck. One of his best moments came when he took the mound for a game against the school’s biggest rival, the Vineland Fighting Clan. Millville hadn’t beaten Vineland since 2003. Leading a squad of nine seniors, Mike fired a complete-game two-hitter to win 2–1.
During his junior year, Mike twirled a no-hitter against Egg Harbor Tonwship, fanning 18 batters. In the state playoffs that year, the Thunderbolts were defeated by Cherry Hill East. The Cougars intentionally walked Mike every time up, including once with the bases loaded and another time when he represented the potential winning run.
ON THE RISE
Mike had lots of scouts checking him out as a junior and senior. His biggest fan was the Angels’ East Coast scout, Greg Morhardt, who also happened to be a minor league teammate of Jeff’s. He rated the teenager as the best position player prospect he had ever seen, and told Jeff so. As draft day approached, the Angels kept their fingers crossed. They had two picks in the first round—24 and 25—compensation for losing Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to free agency.
In recent years, several can’t-miss New Jersey high schoolers had missed badly, which scared a lot of teams off from using a high pick onMike. Anaheim’s main worry was the Oakland A’s, who had targeted a shortstop in the draft. Morhardt was relieved when the A’s grabbed Grant Green, a college infielder. Mike was thrilled when he heard the Angels had taken him; he was actually in MLB’s Secaucus studio for the broadcast.
Mike signed quickly for a $1.2 million bonus and headed for the team’s club in the Arizona Rookie League. He reached base six times in his first pro game and went on to hit .360 in 39 games for manager Tyron Boykin. Infielders struggled to throw him out on routine grounders; they had never dealt with anyone who possessed such great speed.
Mike finished the year with Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League shortly after his 18th birthday. No longer a shortstop, he was being groomed as a center fielder.
Mike returned to Cedar Rapids to begin the 2010 season. He batted .362 in 81 games before he was promoted to Rancho Cucamonga, an advanced Class-A club. He finished the year with the Quakes, batting .306. In all, Mike hit .341 in his second season, with 47 extra-base hits, 73 walks, and 56 stolen bases.
The Angels decided to start Mike at Class-AA in 2011. Playing center field for the Arkansas Travelers, he did everything the big club could have asked of him. By July he was batting better than and had 28 steals.
The Angels rewarded him with a call-up after the All-Star Break, as outfielder Peter Bourjos went on the DL. Mike was the youngest player to make the team since Andy Hassler in 1971. He struggled initially and was sent back to the minors.
After tearing it up again at Double A, Mike got a return ticket to Anaheim on August 19 and finished the year with the Angels. In all, he got into 40 big-league games and held his own with five homers and a .220 average. Two of those long balls came in the same game against the Seattle Mariners, making Mike the youngest player since Andruw Jones to have a multi-homer game.
After the season, Mike went right to the Arizona Fall League, where he shared the outfield with Bryce Harper and Gary Brown for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
As the 2012 season began, the plan was for Mike to get whatever seasoning he still needed a Class-AAA Salt Lake until the big club called him up. He treated Bees fans to 20 magnificent games, battening over .400 in what everyone assumed would be his final stint in the minors. The Angels called him up at the end of April.
MAKING HIS MARK
The season was less than a month old and things were already looking grim for the Angels. They had won just six of 20 games. Bobby Abreu was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Vernon Wells was injured, which opened an everyday spot for Mike. Now 20, he looked like a totally different player. It took about 10 days for him to get his bearings, and then his talent exploded.
During 11 days in May, Mike collected 19 hits and saw his average climb above .350. He was smashing home runs, stealing bases in bunches and making highlight-reel plays in the outfield. In late June, he robbed JJ Hardy of a home run with a leaping catch that looked like one of those phony Gatorade commercials. Except it wasn’t.
Mike stayed hot, scoring more runs and reaching base more in May and June than anyone else in the league. With Mike leading off, Torii Hunter tore it up in the two-hole. Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo provided thuner behind them. The Angels were transformed. They won 32 of their next 50 games and surged back into the division race.
During his blistering two-plus months, Mike had a pair of three-steal games, six three-hit games, a pair of four-hit games, and turned in a slugging average over .550. Initially, Mike was being compared to the young phenom burning up the National league, Bryce Harper. But by the All-Star Break, there was no comparison. Mike was leading the AL in batting and stolen bases. He was a shoo-in for a Gold Glove. Most experts were even calling him the league’s first-half MVP.
Mike completed a remarkable first half to 2012 by being named to the AL All-Star squad. More important, the Angels were closing in on the front-running Texas Rangers in he AL West. That race—and the next chapter of the Mike Trout Story—should be two of the biggest stories in baseball as the season heads toward October.
MIKE THE PLAYER
However many tools a ballplayer can have, Mike has demonstrated them all in his brief big league career. He is fast on bas paths and in the outfield, and possesses a strong arm and good defensive instincts. He hits for average and power, is patient at the plate, and never shrinks from a challenge.
That includes any ball hit in the air. Mike is just as likely to make the highlight reels with a defensive gem as he is with a game-winning hit.
Mike’s greatest advantage may be his love of the game. Veterans talk about the excitement he brings to the locker room and field. For Mike, everyday he's on the daimond is great day.
While few doubt that his power will increase as Mike matures, some wonder how much speed he will retain as he grows into his body. Some of the players he’s being compared to—Mickey Mantle and Kirby Puckett—were massively built and freakishly fast. Perhaps the best comparison is Rickey Henderson.
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