C.J. Cron was perusing the local newspapers in the visitor’s clubhouse Friday when Mike Trout plopped down beside him to join a game of cards.
“Hey look who it is!” Cron said, holding up a copy of the New York Daily News and looking at Trout.
Here, in the flesh, was Trout. And here, gracing the back cover of the tabloid — hallowed (or ignominious) space in this town — was Trout, smiling above the headline “TWIST AND TROUT.”
Trout ignored Cron and his inky likeness and was dealt some cards.
Friday’s game against the Mets marked Trout’s first time playing at Citi Field for a countable ballgame. (He played here in the 2013 All-Star game.) It drew outsized interest. Attendance was nearly 7,000 above the Mets’ average. Trout’s parents were shown on the Kiss Cam. Local reporters and several from Philadelphia stood in the clubhouse awaiting Trout.
Fizzing beneath the surface was a series of questions. Trout grew up about 130 miles away, in Millville, N.J. Does he like playing in front of family? Does he have happy memories from the area? Wouldn’t it be easier if old friends could watch him play without having to stay up late?
They all seemed to add up to: Would he maybe enjoy playing for one of the local, moneyed ballclubs someday?
Trout, as usual, revealed little.
“It feels good to come back every once in a while,” said Trout, who flew in a day early to visit his family.
Trout was raised a Phillies fan, but he declined even to say if the Mets had been his most hated team.
“Obviously as a kid, as a Phillies fan, you didn't like anybody in the division,” Trout said. “But that's that.”
His least favorite Met?
“I don't know anybody off the top of my head,” he said.
Manager Mike Scioscia cautioned local media members that Trout preferred to do let his play mostly speak for itself.
“It's always been like that,” Scioscia said. “From the time he was 19 in the big leagues. He's all about getting ready to play the game.”
About three hours before Friday’s game, Scioscia walked through the clubhouse and stopped in front of Albert Pujols’ locker for a brief conversation.
A few minutes later, the starting lineup was tacked to the wall. Pujols was not in it.
Pujols was removed from a game Wednesday because of hamstring tightness. The series in a National League ballpark, where he’d have to play in the field because there is no designated hitter, did not ease his return.
“Just going to take a little precaution to make sure he's at a certain level before he plays first base,” Scioscia said. “But he's day to day right now.”
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand