The entire scene was almost too much to take in, not only emcee Victor Rojas introducing him to the fans as “your Mike Trout” to the chants of “M-V-P!” that followed, but what the moment signified.
“Whew,” Trout said as he stepped to the microphone.
The unflappable Angels outfielder was visibly shaken.
In the opening remarks he made Sunday to a crowd outside of Angel Stadium about his record-breaking 12-year contract, Trout nearly broke down as he worked through his list of thank-you’s.
He breathed out. He paused. His voice cracked.
“Whew,” he said again. “I’m losing it.”
In seven-plus seasons with the Angels, this was about as much emotion as Trout had shown in public.
Trout’s low-key personality has been a subject of widespread discussion for years, about how baseball’s best player should reveal more of himself for the benefit of the sport, about how much more marketable he could be if he ever opened up, and so forth.
What most of these arguments assumed was that there was significantly more to Trout than he showed, that this aw-shucks character was a carefully crafted mask designed to conceal the actual person inside. And, to some degree, this is what drove the story lines about Trout bolting to another team as a free agent. He always said he enjoyed playing for the Angels, but if his inner life was anywhere near as active as his exterior was inoffensive, he was surely hatching a plan to sign with his beloved Philadelphia Phillies or the brand-name New York Yankees, right?
Well, no, it turns out.
Trout appears to be exactly whom he purported to be.
In retrospect, his decision to accept the $426.5-million proposal from the Angels was about as predictable a choice as there could be. Go back and read what he said in the past. Compare that to what he said Sunday. It’s more or less the same. None of the speculation about him landing in Philadelphia or New York was based on anything he said.
Trout’s parents, Jeff and Debbie, knew better than to hope their son was heading home.
Asked whether they entertained the idea of their son playing in Philadelphia or New York, Debbie playfully told Mike DiGiovanna of The Times: “Never.”
Jeff, a former minor league infielder, continued, “You know, we discussed it, but we always thought that this was a fit for him. He’s a loyal guy. They took a shot at him when no one else did.”
Trout was the 25th overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft. He was skipped over by 21 teams.
“I just think that I know Mike very well and he’s very loyal,” Debbie said. “If people are good to him, he’s going to be good to you because that’s the kind of kid he is.”
She added: “Well, he’s not a kid anymore.”
In spirit, Trout still might be a kid, and this could be why there’s a disconnect between him and the people who think they know what’s best for him. His dreams remain uncompromised by the realities that have modified the ambitions of lesser men.
“Spending your whole career with one team, I think is pretty cool,” he said.
Bryce Harper thought so, too, only he was forced to choose between playing his entire career in Washington or receiving a then-record payday.
Trout was spared of that decision by his unmatched gifts, as the Angels were prepared to open the bank vault to retain him. And he believed his talent would permit him to avoid another compromise, that of how he will win a World Series title one day.
Asked about passing on the chance to play for the up-and-coming Phillies, Trout replied, “I think if I waited two years, it wouldn’t have felt right moving to another team, going straight to a winning team. Teams go through ups and downs. I want to be part of everything.”
He refused to take a shortcut. His actions implied that he didn’t think one was required.
Trout acknowledged that watching Harper and Manny Machado take as long as they did to sign this offseason “drew a red flag for me.”
His thoughts are uncomplicated because his motives remain simple.
“I love coming to the ballpark,” he said. “You can ask my buddies. I’m always almost the first one here every day.”
What is known about Trout is that he’s from a small town in New Jersey, an amateur meteorologist and a fan of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
And he likes playing for the Angels.
Like he always said.