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Angels' Mike Trout more than meets expectations as he marks 24th birthday

Angels' Mike Trout more than meets expectations as he marks 24th birthday
Angels outfielder Mike Trout is all smiles in the dugout after hitting his 33rd home run of the year, on his 24th birthday against the Orioles. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

It speaks clearly to just how good Mike Trout is that I am asking Albert Pujols to talk about him. And Pujols is doing so happily, even eagerly.

Trout's first at-bat Friday night for the Angels against the Baltimore Orioles speaks even more clearly.

He was facing hard-throwing Kevin Gausman, a 1-0 count and a 97-mph offering. Bye bye. Crushed. Check for a hole in the rocks in left center field. Another big boom for Trout at the Big A.

We have come to expect no less.

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Nor has Pujols.

Superstars are usually the subject matter, not the narrator. There is no question that Jose Alberto Pujols is a Major League Baseball superstar. A quick sample: This season alone, he has passed Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas on the all-time home run list.

Ever heard of those guys?

Pujols is 15th all-time in homers and, at age 35, still has six years left on his Angels contract. Plenty of time to turn super numbers into sensational ones.

But Friday was Birthday Boy's night. Trout was celebrating No. 24. And he was like most birthday boys. He couldn't wait for the goodies. Gausman was cooperative, gift-wrapping a fastball.

Because Robert Redford wasn't around to talk about "The Natural" — a movie Hollywood made years ago so baseball fans would have a preview of the Trout years to come — Pujols seemed the next best choice.

"When he came up the first year," Pujols said, "you heard the numbers, heard about him. But he was easy. He was asking questions just like all the new guys. Then, in spring training, he was there, paying special attention to all the veterans, just like I did when I started."

In other words, no hints of that dreaded baseball disease, prima-donna-ism. To this day, still no hints.

"At the end of the day," Pujols said, "he is the same as everybody in this clubhouse. It is not about one guy. It is about winning games."

It is nearly impossible to think of Trout as just another guy, even as much as Pujols can preach that and Trout would love it to be seen that way. His 24th birthday created yet another measuring stick to ponder what this square-jawed, lightning-fast, muscular prodigy from Millville, N.J., has brought to America's pastime, all before the time that most 24-year-olds have weaned themselves from mom's cooking.

The obvious is his 2014 American League MVP award, his two All-Star Game MVPs, including this summer, and his AL rookie of the year honor in 2012. That alone gets players on the Hall of Fame ballot, and they do it over a career, not before somebody puts 24 candles on a cake.

But the list of "before age 24" achievements is, frankly, stunning:

Trout's career 130 homers ties Frank Robinson for fourth all-time before a 24th birthday. Eddie Mathews and Mel Ott had 153 and Ken Griffey Jr. had 132.

He is one of five players in history with at least 125 doubles, 25 triples and 100 home runs prior to their 24th birthday. The others are Ott, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx.

Again, ever heard of those guys?

Coming into Friday night, Trout had 288 extra base hits in his career. Only Ott, Griffey Jr., Williams, Foxx and Alex Rodriguez have more before turning 24.

Only three others have had four seasons of 25 or more home runs before turning 24: Ott, Mathews and Robinson.

There are several more categories, but you get the point: This guy is good.

Pujols didn't just talk about him on his birthday. He gave him a birthday recognition moment early Friday afternoon. With Trout sitting in a chair in the midst of the clubhouse, Pujols sprinkled baby powder on his head and broke an egg on Trout's skull.

This was Dominican tradition, not a yolk.

"You are supposed to use flour, but I didn't have any," Pujols said, "so I used baby powder."

Trout got a good laugh and said later, after he cleaned up, "That's the way Albert celebrates it. It was fun, pretty cool. … If I get a couple of hits tonight, I may have him do it tomorrow."

Stock up on the eggs and baby powder.

On the wall outside the Angels' clubhouse is a giant mural. It is titled "Season Photo Wall." Among the various pictures of people dumping Gatorade on each other, there is a photo of Pujols, applying a playful headlock to Trout in one victory celebration.

"I'm 11 years older," Pujols said, "so I guess he'd be like a little brother to me. Whatever he wants, I'll be there.

"He's really teachable. He listens. All this pressure on him, he doesn't get caught up in it."

Manager Mike Scioscia, with the perspective of even more years than Pujols, is as wide-eyed as everybody else about Trout.

"With Mike," Scioscia said, "the better he has done and the more he has accomplished, the expectations keep rising and he seems to keep meeting them. Which is incredible.

"We're seeing a young player passing all the tests you look for in a player. … He just keeps breaking through every plateau that might hinder a player or stall a player's development. He's a special kid and a great player."

When the night ended, The Angels had an 8-4 victory and Trout had a homer, single, two walks and a fly out to deep right field. He also threw out an Oriole at second base.

When he took the field in the first, Angels fans sang "Happy Birthday." When he came to bat in the sixth, they chanted "MVP."

That it was his birthday had merely added a bit more pressure and introspection. Like Atlas, Trout shrugged.

Scioscia said that people who have only heard and not seen Trout in action have come to expect "some mythological creature."

And your point, Mike?

Twitter: @DwyreLATimes

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