(Mike Trout steals second base in the top of the third inning, but is stranded.- Photo by Gary Quintal)
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, July 14- Currently ranked in the top 10 in almost every offensive category and leading the American League in batting and stolen bases, 20-year-old Mike Trout, like his counterpart in the National League, 19-year-old Bryce Harper, is bringing excitement to every city in which he plays. The two center fielders are reminiscent to older fans of the entrance of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays into the respective New York City center fields of Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in the same year, 1951. Although no one can accurately foresee what each will accomplish in his future career in baseball, each has proven to have excellent talent.
Trout, who began the 2012 season with the Angels on April 28, made his first visit to Yankee stadium as a player on Friday, the 13th. The young man’s visit was quite meaningful to him, “Just being in the same place as so many Hall of Famers played is awesome.”
In a pre-game press conference, the New Jersey native was questioned about his childhood baseball preferences and responded, “I was a Phillies fan, but Jeter was my guy. I always liked seeing him play. I played shortstop my whole life until my senior year [in high school] when I changed to outfield. I’m out there hustling on every play. That’s how Jeter plays the game and that’s how I want to play the game.”
The two will be even closer in the future and family members and friends of Trout were invited to watch Friday night’s game in Jeter’s luxury box.
Trout was selected by the Angels as the 25th pick in the first round of the 2009 MLB First Year Player Draft. On Friday, the youngster commented, “Going 25th gives me the motivation to prove them wrong.” He has been spurred to exhibit the capacity he possesses to be a star quality player in the majors.
Although he played 40 games with the Angels during the 2011 season, Trout is still considered to be a rookie. Thus, he is currently a favorite to be voted both the Rookie of the Year and the American League MVP. This is a rare honor previously won by Ichiro Suzuki and Fred Lynn.
Trout leads all American League rookies in every offensive category except triples in which he ranks second. He is the first rookie in AL history to rank first in batting average (.341) and stolen bases (26) at the All Star break.
Trout’s performances during May, June and early July added to his personal popularity earned him a place on the A.L. All-Star Team. He recounted his feelings on that memorable day to reporters at Yankee Stadium, “It was a great experience for my family and me and my friends. I started to feel a little nervous when I looked in the dugout and saw Derek Jeter and when I looked in the stands and saw my family.” Hid nervousness wore off quickly as he singled in his only at bat and stole a base. He was the youngest player to hit successful in the Mid-Summer Classic in 57 years.
The second youngest player currently in the majors was asked to comment about the youngest, Bryce Harper, “He’s a great guy; he plays the game the right way, hard; he’s got the same focus as I do, get on base and score a lot of runs. It’s only been one-half of a year, we have to keep working hard and making it happen.”
The two are on teams that appear to be heading to post-season berths. The Halos were only 6-14 prior to Trout’s joining the club, but have amassed the best record in the majors (42-25) since that date.
Trout’s first game in Yankee Stadium, although in a loss, was impressive. He singled and doubled in four at bats. He stole two bases and scored a run.
On Friday, at the age of 20 years, 10 months and 5 days, Trout described his experiences in the majors, “It’s definitely surreal. I try not to think about it during the season; it could give you a big head. I’ll talk about it with my parents after the season.”