It has happened so fast, like most things with Mike Trout. A huge box arrived at the house in Millville last month. Mike periodically cleans out what accumulates in his locker and sends it home. This shipment included one of his three AL Rookie of the Month awards, an autographed bat from Jason Giambi (a thank you after Giambi asked Trout for one) and a letter from Dipoto. Deb read it aloud for a visitor: " 'Just three years ago you were a Thunderbolt. Now you are a major league All-Star. Congratulations on your selection to the All-Star team.'
"Wow," she said. "I'm getting chills. That's going in a frame."
An area scout can spend a lifetime on the road, missing anniversaries and kids' birthdays, catching three games in a day, eating meals at concession stands and filling stations, and never see a Mike Trout. Sometimes, you see a Mike Trout and don't even know it. The Nationals will discuss what happened in the 2009 draft at organizational meetings this winter, part of their annual forensic study of each draft after three years have elapsed. Strasburg was the obvious top pick, but with their second pick in the first round they took a reliever, Drew Storen, without giving much thought to Trout. "It's not finger-pointing," says Rizzo, a scout himself for 13 years. "If you haven't made a mistake, you haven't been drafting anybody."
In a short time Trout has become a franchise player who leaves people grasping for rarefied comparisons. Trout, meanwhile, defines himself simply by how hard and how well he plays baseball. It will be difficult to protect that humble simplicity. Endorsement offers are rolling in, but the Trouts have tabled everything until the season ends. Interview requests became so burdensome at the All-Star Game and a subsequent trip to New York that the Angels established limits to Trout's availability. Mike could not leave Camden Yards in Baltimore one night because of the crowd of autograph hounds at the players' entrance gate. Jeff had to call in security.
The goal is to change the game without the game changing Mike Trout. He will come back to Millville when the season ends, back to his upstairs bedroom, the downstairs playroom and all the love in between. Until then, Trout carries Millville with him in the way he plays. He is a Thunderbolt. He is living his boyhood dream barely removed from boyhood. And the dream is everything he hoped it would be.
"Yeah—and more," he says. "It's pretty exciting just to be up here, playing in front of all those fans. It's pretty cool. It's prettyneat."