Mike Trout is the leading American League vote-getter in early balloting for the July 15 All-Star game in Minnesota, another indication of the Angels center fielder's growing national profile and ability to connect with fans.
"It feels good to get all the support from my fans," Trout said before Tuesday night's 6-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Safeco Field. "It feels good to be up at the top. To be No. 1 is something special, for sure. It means a lot."
Trout, the AL most valuable player runner-up in 2012 and 2013, had 764,007 votes as of Tuesday, putting him ahead of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista (675,290) and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (602,525).
Though his numbers are down — Trout is batting .280 with 10 homers, 35 runs batted in and an AL-high 59 strikeouts — he appears well on his way to his third All-Star game and to joining Rod Carew, Fred Lynn, Reggie Jackson and Vladimir Guerrero as the only Angels to earn consecutive fan-elected All-Star starts.
"I'm going out there and playing with some passion and some fun," said Trout, whose seventh-inning sacrifice fly gave the Angels a 5-3 lead Tuesday night. "I had a lot of fun at the last two All-Star games, so it would be a blast to go this year."
It might be even more fun if he participated in the home run derby, but the chances of that happening are about as high as the speedy Trout loafing to first base on an infield grounder.
"I probably wouldn't do it," Trout said.
That sigh of relief you just heard was from Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, who is a fan of the home run derby — as long as his players aren't in it.
"I don't like it," Scioscia said. "I think it has great fan interest. I even like watching it. But when it's one of your players doing it, I'm not a fan. I don't know if a player ever takes that many full-gorilla swings in that short of a time.
"It's like a long-drive contest for a golfer who has to rely on touch. I don't think they would like that."
Scioscia said home run derby participation "is totally a player's decision," but he has advised players against it because he believes it can lead to bad swing habits and even injury.
Abreu, then with the Philadelphia Phillies, mashed 41 homers, including 24 in the first round, in 2005. But after hitting 18 homers in 397 plate appearances in the first half that season, he hit six homers in 322 plate appearances after the All-Star break.
Wright, who made it to the derby finals on the strength of his 16-homer first round in 2006, went from 20 homers in 386 plate appearances in the first half to six homers in 275 plate appearances after the break.
Of the four Angels to participate in the home run derby since Scioscia became manager in 2000 — Troy Glaus (2001), Garret Anderson (2003), Guerrero (2007) and Mark Trumbo (2012) — only Trumbo had a considerable drop-off in second-half production.
"I would advise any of our guys not to do it, just for the wear and tear it takes on your swings," Scioscia said. "It's a challenge for a player to do that. That's a lot of swings, and these guys are not holding back."
Trout took part in the Class-A Midwest League home run derby in 2010, and though it "didn't turn out too well, I hit, like, two or three homers" — he said it did not affect his swing.
"I didn't think about it much," he said. "It's for the fans to have fun and to try to hit some home runs. After the All-Star break, you get back to the basics anyway."