July 25, 2011

Looking back at Mike Trout's major league debut

Back on Friday – July 8, 2011 Cheryl and I came to the stadium not to get a glimpse of Mike Trout, but to hopefully get the full “Mike Trout experience.” After all, it’s not every day that baseball top prospect makes his major league debut in your home stadium.

The stadium had a bit of a buzz to it and the anticipation of what was to come was hanging in the air. It was clear that a great many Angel fans knew exactly what was taking place and many were on hand for the specific reason of getting their first look at Trout.

Cheryl and I had seen him last year when the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes were in the play-offs and again at spring training. Never-the-less, it was clear by the loud ovation Trout received when introduced, that the fans knew exactly what was up. We’ve been in the stadium when other players made their major league debut and fans around the stadium would wonder out loud “Who is that?” Not on this night; not on the night that Mike Trout started his first game.

It was kind of fitting that a kid named Trout would make his debut across the way from an arena that was once called “The Pond.” This was no fish out of water; he looked like he was totally comfortable in his new environment and ready to soak it all in.

We got our first look at Trout in his 1990’s throw-back uniform when he came out to warm up a little less than a half hour before the game. As he stretched and warmed up, I saw him shoot glances into the crowd. Perhaps he was searching for familiar faces or perhaps he was just soaking it all in or some combination of both.

As we watched and snapped photos, we heard someone behind us yell “Millville Representing!” Turns out Trout’s cousin – Justin Trout was standing behind us. Justin lives in the Los Angeles area and had driven down to see Mike make his major league debut. Cheryl struck up a conversation with Justin, telling him how excited we were that he was called up when she learned that Justin was his cousin.

Justin went on to tell her about how much better Mike was at “everything” in sports – be it basketball, baseball or whatever. He told Cheryl how he always stood out and was always just so much better than everyone else.

Justin also told Cheryl that Mike’s parents were still mid-flight and hoped to get to the game by the later innings.

I don’t know when or if his parents made it to the game in time to see him play. One thing was clear, his “new family” was there to support him regardless of whether his real family could.

As I watched Trout warm up and then run to center field to assume his position I tried to gauge if he was nervous or not. I couldn’t tell. His motor was definitely running like that of a 19 year old though, that was for sure. He couldn’t stand still… he bounced, stretched, and moved around like any antsy teenager would.

In the top of the second – Justin Smoak of the Mariners hit a ball into left center field; it looked like Trout would get his first chance at a put-out only to see Vernon Wells take the ball instead. The crowd moaned… Torii Hunter smiled and threw his hands up in the air as if to say, c’mon Vernon – let the kid have that one. Hunter and Trout exchanged some smiles and I imagine Hunter was jokingly telling the kid to call Wells off.

It was a light moment and it was fun to watch.

The whole game was fun to watch (to add to the fun I also ran into
RevHalofan of Halos Heaven) and even though Trout didn’t get a base hit, he didn’t strike out or look over matched in any way.

The following night Trout did manage to get his first hit. With Mark Trumbo on second base and Hank Conger occupying first base, Trout laid down a bunt that he managed to beat out. Trumbo would score on a throwing error and although Trout wouldn’t get an RBI, he definitely showed that his speed made him extra dangerous; defenses can’t take it easy when he’s running down the line.

Trout would end up scoring on a Torii Hunter fly ball, walk and score again in the 5th and with all of that Trout had officially arrived for sure. Perhaps it was fitting in some way that Trout would get his first hit on the same day that Derek Jeter would achieve the mile stone of getting his 3,000th hit. One thing for sure, the day - July 8 will be memorable for a variety of reasons.

Trout has continued get some playing time since that first series and has even managed to stay on when Peter Bourjos returned from the disabled list. He even managed to hit his first major league homerun in front of friends and family on July 24. How long he stays up with the “big club” isn’t’ clear, although it’s likely to be a stint that does not last. In any case, one thing is for sure; Trout will be back and I can’t wait for that day.

I can't wait because Mike Trout is a legitimate talent and represents the hope that every fan has that one day their team will produce a talent that's special and among the best in the game. Time will tell if Trout is that guy; regardless, it is something I look forward to watching develop one pitch and one play at a time.

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