View from Studio 3: Trout suited for spotlight
Angels superstar poised to take mantle as face of MLB from Jeter
TEMPE, Ariz. -- No comment on contract negotiations; no problem. There's more than enough to talk about with Mike Trout. During Wednesday morning's 16-minute media session, the 22-year-old superstar touched on everything from rabbit hunting to President Barack Obama, from watching Lebron James to shooting a Nike commercial, from tweeting to catching a barracuda this offseason in St. Lucia.
And there were a few answers about baseball, too.
Welcome to life in a fishbowl (sorry for the pun). Welcome to life as a face of Major League Baseball. Everybody wants to know your every move, and Trout seems to be just fine with it and appears to have the proper perspective.
"I just stay humble. My parents always taught me to stay humble and I go out there and have fun playing baseball," Trout said.
"He won't let it be a distraction," said his manager, Mike Scioscia. "He understands he's a premier player and there's a lot of interest in what he does both on and off the field, whether it's endorsements or someone's tweeting he had ice cream at this store or whatever. That comes with the territory."
Trout was far from an ice cream shop when he heard that Obama mentioned his name during a recent speech. Trout was in the woods. Hunting rabbits (or as Elmer Fudd says, "wabbits"). Text messages started rolling in, one after another, 30 times in all. He eventually saw the video and the shoutout from Obama. Trout called it "a crazy feeling."
So was seeing about 200 fans waiting at the Phoenix airport when he arrived in town for Spring Training. This scene was a direct result of Trout's tweet that provided his travel info.
"I can't really explain what it felt like because it was just a bunch of people swarming me [as I] try to get my bags," he said. "I was trying to get home and get some sleep. It was pretty late and it was pretty crazy."
Call it irony or a coincidence; either way, Trout was speaking at almost the exact same time his childhood idol, Derek Jeter, was addressing the media thousands of miles away in Tampa, Fla. An ambassador for the game for two decades, Jeter is saying goodbye after 2014. Trout may very well take over for his childhood hero as the face of Major League Baseball.
"The way he carried himself on the field," said Trout. "I would look at the Yankees and they had a lot of great players. ... I would look at their lineup. Derek Jeter was their best player."
Trout is the Angels' best player -- possibly the best player in the world. With that unofficial title comes responsibility on the field and in the clubhouse. Behind the scenes, he believes that bonding over a meal and getting to know his teammates is the way to forge strong relationships. On the field, Trout says, it's all about stepping up. Each guy has to pull his own weight. This season that will likely include producing from the second spot in the order and patrolling center field. Trout's back in his natural position that was filled in 2013 by Peter Bourjos. Trout admitted that at times last season playing left field was a distraction.
"Playing it your whole life, you always want to stay in your home," he said. "It's like taking you out of your home."
Now he's back home.
Scioscia acknowledged that Trout is a center fielder. Referring to 2013, he explained that team dynamics sometimes dictate a position change.
"Twenty years from now, when you look at his career, you're going to see hopefully one of the premier players of our time who was that because of being a center fielder and bringing that much production," said Scioscia.
No need to look decades ahead. We're already witnessing an all-time great. And a young man who knows we're watching and ready to document his every move.
"If I'm sitting there at my locker at the start of spring and nobody's coming over," Trout said, "that means I'm not doing something right."
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on twitter @mattyallofmlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.