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Angels

‘Just Mike’ Trout is Angels’ leader by example

He arrived for his postgame interview, one during which he would be asked to describe the sensation of hitting a baseball 450-plus feet, looking like this:

No shoes. Floppy socks. One pant leg rolled above his calf and the other extending to the floor. The lining in both back pockets flipped, looking like two tongues sticking out. Dirt stains everywhere, including a smudge across his cheek.

Mike Trout was short just one snow cone.

“He’s an 8-year-old, an 8-year-old having fun,” teammate Andrelton Simmons said. “I honestly don’t know if he knows how good he is. He just goes out and does it.”

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With Trout entering the seventh season of a career that already might be worthy of baseball’s Hall of Fame, it’s difficult to comprehend how talent so extraordinary can exist inside someone so ordinary.

Inside someone whose approach is so delightfully childlike that, when Major League Baseball celebrated its players last season by allowing them to wear their nicknames on their jersey backs, Trout chose “Kiiiiid.”

“The regular-guy best player in the world,” Angels third baseman Zack Cozart said. “You don’t see that a lot. He’s not trying to trick anybody. He’s not fake. He’s just being him. That’s refreshing to see from a superstar.”

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In his first at-bat of the spring, teammate Luis Valbuena singled and flipped his bat, showing more gratuitous flair after one pitch than Trout will display in total all season.

Trout has 2.49 million Twitter followers — almost three times that of the Angels official account — and mostly what we know is that he’s a big fan of the Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles. His recent dispatches have mostly been innocuous salutes to Tiger Woods.

Two years ago, in an ESPN story profiling Bryce Harper and celebrating everything from his raucous swing to his riotous hair, Trout was characterized as “publicly charismatic as a plate of sand.”

That might have been a little generous.

“He would be a model for Bill Belichick and Nick Saban,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “He does his job and he sticks to his job. And he does it better than anybody else.”

Shortly after he was hired in October 2015, Eppler reached out to the Angels’ two stars. He talked to Albert Pujols for 40 minutes, discussing baseball, life, their mutual acquaintances.

He’s not trying to trick anybody. He’s not fake. He’s just being him. That’s refreshing to see from a superstar.
Zack Cozart on Mike Trout

Then Eppler called Trout, who was hunting at the time. The conversation was cordial but clipped, awkward dead air dominating until, finally, Eppler surrendered after fewer than five minutes.

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“Mike’s just simple,” Eppler said. “He’s matter-of-fact.”

Trout does baseball. He doesn’t do nonsense.

That’s why, in this story largely about his personality, Trout is barely quoted. See, he’s fine talking baseball. But he’s not great talking about Mike Trout.

His old-school style — even while wearing bright Angels red — belongs in black-and-white, just like his preferred buzz cut.

To accompany that feature on Harper, ESPN outfitted him in a tuxedo, which was a welcomed contrast to the earlier “Body Issue,” in which Harper was photographed wearing nothing but a tattoo.

When the same publication profiled Trout a few years back, he was shown on the cover in his baseball uniform, complete with eye black.

He once was featured in GQ, a magazine that can’t be any more fashion friendly. For that spread, one of the photos had Trout posing with his pickup truck.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Arizona Diamondbacks
Mike Trout smiles while warming up for a spring training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
(Jennifer Stewart / Getty Images )
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“He’s a dude first,” left fielder Justin Upton said. “That’s all you can ask, for the big piece of your team to be a part of your team at the same time.”

Trout fits right in with the Angels, it mattering not one bit that he will be baseball’s highest paid player this season, a man making in excess of $34 million but with a minimum-wage ego.

There is something oddly perfect, too, about Trout sharing his uniform number with Vladimir Guerrero, another Angels legend who was recently voted into the Hall of Fame. Not even the jersey on his back is his alone.

A few weeks ago, representatives of the apparel company Majestic visited Tempe Diablo Stadium. They were there to tailor each player’s game uniform for the season.

After taking Trout’s measurements and consulting with him on his preferences, a woman looked him in the eyes and asked, “OK, what’s your number?”

“Twenty-seven,” the six-time All-Star and two-time American League MVP said without a second thought, clearly unfazed by the biting reality that the woman had no idea who he was.

“He’s not the prototypical superstar who walks around with his shades on and acting the part most people would act if they were in his shoes,” Simmons said. “I’m not sure how he’s so humble. That’s a lot of talent to deal with.”

That talent this month produced a home run that cleared the batter’s eye in center field, a distance so great that the original dimensions of Tempe Diablo Stadium had to be consulted in an attempt to best approximate the length of the prodigious blast.

Trout’s thoughts on it?

“I got a good pitch,” he deadpanned. “I just tried to put a good swing on it.”

Hard to be more matter-of-fact than that.

Jahmai Jones just finished his first big-league spring training camp. At 20, he was the youngest player with the Angels before recently being sent down to the minors.

He met Trout for the first time during the 2015 season, after signing and being introduced to the media at Angel Stadium.

Trout, then the reigning American League MVP, approached Jones, extended his right hand and said, “What’s up, man, my name is Mike.”

“That was it,” Jones said. “ … He’s Mike. There’s no, ‘Oh, my god, it’s Mike Trout!’

“He’s just Mike.”

jmiller2929@yahoo.com


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