Column

Jordan Spieth and Mike Trout are making the most of their youth

Wednesday began with a breakfast of champions.

A big pond, an entire continent and eight hours' time difference from the warmth and familiarity of Los Angeles, I peeled off the rain gear essential to Scotland by the sea and went to listen to golf's man of the hour, Jordan Spieth.

I returned to my work station, moved again by the normalcy and freshness of this prodigy, and found, there on my laptop, the latest news of Spieth's mirror image, baseball's Mike Trout.

In my baby days in the newspaper business in Milwaukee, we had a grizzled reporter named Cleon Walfoort. He was a delightful little man who could turn phrases like Shakespeare. One of his favorite sayings was: Youth is wasted on the young.

Not sure it was original, but in my 30s and 40s, I was amused by its silly generalization, though taken by the music of the phrase. As I became a practicing curmudgeon — that arrives with hair loss — it became gospel.

Then came Wednesday morning and Spieth and Trout. Spieth won't turn 22 until July 27. Trout is 23.

Spieth is the toast of this town, a town credited with birthing the game. He has won the first two majors of the season, the Masters and U.S. Open. The third one starts here Thursday, and in this age of media celebrity overkill, Spieth is a prime target.

So is Trout. He just gets to spread it over 162 games.

Oh, yes, plus one All-Star game, where Tuesday night he became the first to win consecutive most-valuable-player honors and the first in eight years to be allowed to bat four times in the All-Star game. He has been to the plate in All-Star games 12 times and has five hits and two walks.

My laptop said that he began Tuesday night by hitting a home run to the opposite field. I got chills.

Clearly, youth is not wasted on these young. If anything, they are proving that greatness on the field can come even earlier than it used to, well before it once was possible or realistic.

Spieth can keep going and become the next Nicklaus or Palmer. Trout can keep going and become the next Mantle or Mays.

Performance in their chosen sport is only part of the equation. The other part is how they handle the accompanying celebrity, how they deal with everything that now swirls around them, especially people with notepads and tape recorders who remain the major conduit to the public.

From this vantage point, both get A's.

Spieth was undaunted by the packed house that faced him Wednesday morning. He is so unrehearsed, so uncalculating, it is stunning.

When he was asked about the tremendous Grand Slam history he is facing, he said, "Sure, I am aware." No retreating to the usual cop-out: I treat this like just another tournament.

He was asked about his practice-round partners later Wednesday. He said he wasn't sure, that he had talked to a friend, Matt Jones and that he had played Tuesday with Ryan Palmer and Ollie Schniederjans. No chumming it up with Tiger. No spot in Phil's high-stakes practice round.

Two majors later, his friends remain his friends. His celebrity remains our perception, not his.

For the record, he played his practice round with Brooks Koepka and Steven Bowditch.

Spieth was interviewed recently about the whereabouts of his Masters green jacket. He said that it was at home in Texas in his closet, but that "I took it out and wore it to play poker with a couple of my buddies. That blew them away."

Normal, young guys stuff.

He is almost always asked now about his developmentally disabled sister, Ellie. He said he misses seeing her as much because of his travel, but told a story about being her "grandparent" earlier this year on her school's Grandparent Day, since their grandparents live out of state.

"One of the hardships is less time seeing the people you love and care about," Grandpa Jordan said.

Next question: Did he think, with his current success, that his presence is beginning to intimidate other players?

"I don't look like an intimidating person," he said, drawing laughs and further charming the room.

My dealings with Trout are not in a big room where he sits in front of a microphone, but in an Angels clubhouse, with simple nods of recognition and occasional requests for quotes or game-action explanations.

He is the best player in the game, but in that room, he is one of the guys. He defers to Albert Pujols, to Jered Weaver, to the older guys. That's just what he did when asked in spring training about the possible need for a clubhouse leader, with the departure of the king of such things, Torii Hunter. Trout said that wasn't his role. He didn't say "yet," but you knew he wanted to.

One day two seasons ago, when his stardom had become obvious and he was already besieged by media, our pregame chat was interrupted by a breathless TV reporter hoping to set up an interview the next day. It would clearly be one of those non-threatening, gee whiz fan-o-grams that would chew up more of his time. Trout paused, thought about it, then said, "Sure, I can do that."

Like Spieth, Trout errs on the side of being decent to everybody. That is a skill and an endearing approach often not learned by athletes until gray hair is creeping into their beards.

From a huge interview room 50 yards to my left, to Angel Stadium 5,200 miles in the other direction, the blessings of being able to deal with, and write about, Spieth and Trout will never be taken for granted.

The special nature of their youth has not been wasted on this old guy.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

Twitter: @DwyreLATimes

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