The 2021 season has not unfolded the way Mike Trout would have planned or preferred. He’s appeared in only 36 games because of a calf injury, and he hasn’t played since May 17. In lieu of climbing outfield walls, he’s figuratively climbing the wall.

“It's a grind,’’ Trout recently told Los Angeles Angels beat reporters. “I come in every day, work hard, and it seems like it's just dragging. It's definitely wearing on me a little bit. But I'm staying positive.’’

The season hasn’t been completely uneventful. In July, shortly before his 30th birthday, Trout joined an elite group of players with 10 years of MLB service time. Even though he’s under contract with the Angels through 2030, Trout viewed the achievement as much more than a pit stop. “Truly an honor and a blessing,’’ he called it.

 

From the moment scout Greg Morhardt began his lobbying effort and the Angels signed Trout out of Millville (N.J.) High School with the 25th pick in the 2009 draft, Trout has been the gold standard for ballplayers on and off the field. He’s a nine-time All-Star with eight Silver Slugger awards, three MVP awards and a Rookie of the Year award on his resume. He already has a higher Baseball-reference.com WAR than Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter and numerous other first ballot Hall of Famers.

“I know he's been the best player over the last 10 years, but he was also the best player, arguably, every single season,’’ said Eddie Bane, the former Angels scouting director who drafted Trout. “That’s the most incredible thing about it.’’

 

In recognition of Trout’s 10 years of service, the MLBPA talked to Bane, Trout’s former manager (Mike Scioscia), his longtime agent (Craig Landis), a former teammate (Chris Iannetta) and an Angels broadcaster (Mark Gubicza), and they shared their favorite memories of his career. Some of the quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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SETTING THE STANDARD

As Mike Trout celebrates 10 years of service time, it’s time to celebrate Mike Trout

By Jerry Crasnick

Eddie Bane

There are all kinds of kids coming out of the Northeast and the Midwest in the draft now. They're coming from everywhere. And Mike was certainly part of that movement.

I went to see him play with (cross checker Jeff Malinoff). I left after five innings and I said, ‘This is best guy I've seen.’ I went out to dinner with the family about 10 days later at some rustic restaurant just outside of Millville. Mom and dad were there, and it was the best interaction by far I've ever seen with parents and their kid. Mike was really respectful -- still is.  But they got on each other about golf, about fishing, about the relationship, about everything.

I think I got more out of that dinner than I did watching him play. I went, ‘My god, this (family) is off the charts.’ I still have a closer relationship with Jeff and Debbie Trout than I do with Mike, just because I see them a lot more. It wasn't ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ but it was ‘Leave it to Beaver’ with a little tension, maybe.

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Craig Landis

Mike was like 5-1, 115 pounds in ninth grade, and he grew like nine inches over like an 18-month span. His dad played minor-league ball and tried not to put any pressure on him, because he was smart enough to know most guys don't make it. Mike was known as a super good little athlete and really fast, but he didn’t have any size yet.

Then Mike shoots up and has a good sophomore year on the varsity team. And his dad tells the story. He was like, ‘Maybe there’s a chance Mike might play in college.’ By his junior year, his dad was saying, ‘Maybe somebody might give him a baseball scholarship.’ Then it gets to the showcases between his junior and senior year. The pros started fixating on Mike. That was the first time everybody was like, ‘Jiminy, maybe Mike could even be a pro!’

It's kind of good for Mike and his family that this was all just a pleasant, wonderful surprise. He just kept getting better and better and it was one step at a time. Next thing you know, he's the best player in baseball, but they never planned on that. They were just hoping for a scholarship at first, and then maybe a chance to get drafted. After that, it was all icing on the cake.

As Mike Trout celebrates 10 years of service time, it’s time to celebrate Mike Trout

Mike Scioscia

I've never been around a player with such internal confidence from a young age -- and absolutely trusting his talent was going to overcome any challenge. He was 19 years old, and he wasn’t fazed by any of the things that can derail a player's season and career. He's so grounded and has such confidence and ability in every aspect of his game. Maybe Shohei Ohtani is a more dynamic player than Mike just because he can pitch. But I’ve never been around a more confident, team-oriented position player than Mike, with a skill set that is second to none. He’s at the head of the class.

Eddie Bane

Obviously, he should have gone 1-1 in the draft, but that wasn't even a thought. They didn’t know what he was, so they just wrote things to fill up space. Somebody wrote, ‘He should probably experiment with switch-hitting to take advantage of his tools.’ And that's a way of saying, ‘The guy can't really play, but maybe if he tried something strange it might work.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness. Ok.’

He took BP at Angel Stadium before the Arizona Summer League. He's a 17-year-old high school senior and he's hitting balls in batting practice way out of Angel Stadium in right center. You don’t see that from the big-league guys, and he was just launching them out there at 17. I told (our national cross-checker) Ric Wilson, ‘I think we may have got one.’

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As Mike Trout celebrates 10 years of service time, it’s time to celebrate Mike Trout

Chris Iannetta

He was so young when I first saw him. My first real memory of him was hearing a lot of hype about him. Then he got hurt in spring training. I happened to walk with him in close proximity at Tempe Diablo Stadium, when you had to walk a mile and a half from the back fields to the clubhouse. He was talking to the trainer and he was so down. I was so down, too. I'm guessing that was the first time he had a ‘significant’ injury, even though it wasn’t all that significant in the grand scheme of things. But it delayed the start of his season for maybe five weeks.

I didn't really get a chance to see Mike Trout in spring training or know what he was all about even though I heard all the hype. He got called up and the first game he didn't get a hit. After that he beat out an infield hit or two and from that point there was never a doubt in my mind that he was going to be the best player of our generation -- if not the history of baseball.

Craig Landis

When my son was eight or 10 years old, we went out to Tulsa and watched Mike’s Double-A Arkansas team. My son really enjoys Mike, and Mike is really good talking to the kids. We went to three games and on the last night, Mike went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. In the fourth at-bat he had two strikes on him, and he hit this tiny little dribbler back to the pitcher and ended up 0-4 with three punchouts. We had dinner after the game and we said, ‘Tough night,’ and he was like, ‘Dude, that last at-bat I just wanted to put the ball in play. At least I didn’t strike out.’ So then he finished the story and he was like, ‘What do you guys want to eat?’

There was an old saying about Johnny Unitas -- that he acts the same after every game, Mike comes as close to that as anybody I've ever seen. He doesn't let a bad game put him in a bad mood. He’s still nice to everybody around him. I don't know if he drew it up that way. I think that's just his natural personality, but it's really served him well. It's one of the small things that’s led to his success that not many people would know. He’s really an even-keeled guy and a pretty positive guy. He truly enjoys playing the game.

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Chris Iannetta

I’ve never seen a guy do things like he did on and off the field. It was just different on so many levels. I heard the media debate, ‘Who’s the greatest player in baseball?’ I saw people compare him to a lot of other players in the league and I was like, ‘Guys, it's not even close.’

There are so many things he can do that are so impressive. From that iconic catch in Baltimore right in front of the Southwest sign where he robbed J.J. Hardy of a home run, to the control of his body when he's climbing the wall. I would be on the bench with Collin Cowgill and Hank Conger in the bottom of the ninth inning, and we were like, ‘We can’t ask him to do it again,’ and Cowgill was like, ‘Sure, we can.’  And then he hits a walk-off homer against Tampa Bay. I was like, ‘This is incredible.’

Mike Scioscia

He’s a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder. I don’t know what some of these guys are looking at with the analytics. You see how hard he works on an everyday basis, and the way his speed plays in center field. He never takes a pitch off. His range is incredible, and he always throws to the right base. This guy will turn 20 potential doubles into singles during the course of a season -- which they can't really quantify. He is absolutely a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder.

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Mark Gubicza

A lot of people talk about his 300th home run or hitting for the cycle and all these things, but I remember his at-bat against Chris Sale (in 2014). The Angels were down 5-1 and he comes up with the bases loaded against Sale, who in my mind was and probably still is one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. He’s got a great edge to him. He’s filthy, and he’s throwing in the upper 90s and the ball is really hard to pick up out of his hand.

So he throws a 3-2 changeup, and Trout hits a grand slam against him. I will never forget, because I have a good view looking down at Chris Sale's face, and he was like, ‘No human being should hit that ball out of the ballpark.’ The reaction was priceless. This is a guy who might be hanging out with Trout in the Hall of Fame if he stays healthy. That was the moment where I was like, ‘Wow, this dude is unbelievable.’

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Chris Iannetta

It was maybe his second or third year with the Angels. If we had an off day Monday, we would travel on that Monday. Trout was renting a house with Garrett Richards on the beach and it was like a private community. He would go around the clubhouse and say, ‘Hey guys, I’m gonna get a bunch of food. Bring your wives, your girlfriends and your kids, and we’ll walk down to the beach and hang out and throw the football around and be together. I’ll take care of the food and if you want anything else, just bring it.’

It wasn’t a raging party or anything. It was like, ‘Let’s all get together and just chill.’ I’m like, ‘This is something a guy with 10-15 years in the big leagues would do, not some guy with a year or two.’ It was impressive, and it wasn’t a one-time thing. I thought it was so mature and wise beyond his years in terms of what it does for the chemistry of the team and the clubhouse.

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Mike Scioscia

We both grew up as Philly fans because we're from the area. I’m talking about growing up with Dick Allen and Jim Bunning, and then seeing Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski. He grew up watching the Philly teams with guys like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. And we’re both huge Eagles fans. There was a little bit of a generational gap in the players we're talking about, but as far as the culture being from the Philadelphia area, it's alive and well in our relationship.

From the way Mike grew up idolizing players in the Philadelphia area, I think he understands the impact of getting an autograph or just being close to a major-league player. He understands not only what he means to the Angels’ organization, but to baseball, and he lives it every day. You go out there, and he’ll be the one who takes a picture with the fan club or meets the Make-A-Wish kid. He takes it very seriously, and he’s had an incredible impact on so many lives. It’s hard to believe he just turned 30, because he’s such a kid at heart.

Mark Gubicza

The Eagles are in the Super Bowl, and I’m texting with him as he's flying out to Minnesota for the game. He sends me a video of everyone on the plane singing ‘Fly, Eagles Fly’ and I'm just dying. Then he takes pictures and sends me videos when they're in the stadium. So then the next year we have an off day between Texas and Chicago and the Eagles are playing their first game Thursday night. So he goes, ‘Hey, you want to go to the game?’ And I’m like, ‘Sure, that would be a heck of a lot of fun.’ And he says, ‘Pack your bag.’

So it’s me, Cam Bedrosian and a couple of other guys, and we’re on a private plane into the Philly airport and we’re like, ‘We’re going to the freaking Eagles game.’ Our seats are down by the tunnel and these guys are all running out and coming over and saying, ‘Hey, what’s going on, Trouty?’ He’s like a member of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. I’m thinking, ‘These guys are about to get beat up on the football field in two minutes, and they’re all coming over to say hi to Trouty.’

As Mike Trout celebrates 10 years of service time, it’s time to celebrate Mike Trout

Eddie Bane

They've told me about how early he has to get to the ballpark to accommodate requests from somebody at a hospital or request for this young man or young lady. It would be nice if more people knew about all the things he does not just for the people in LA or Anaheim, but for everybody. He’ll do a Cal Ripken thing on the road where he'll line up kids for autographs. He’s just been so well-grounded his whole life, with his parents being school teachers.

Craig Landis

Mike's mom used to say that he loved playing Little League. He wanted to win so bad so the guys could go get ice cream or pizza after the game. In spite of his contract, the basics are still there. Most of his best friends in life are players. He enjoys being with the guys and winning because then they're all in a good mood together and they have fun together. The big leagues are very much like Little League: ‘Let’s win this game so we can go have pizza together.’

As Mike Trout celebrates 10 years of service time, it’s time to celebrate Mike Trout

Chris Iannetta

He’s wildly competitive. Everything was a competition. Even in the clubhouse, throwing a water bottle into the recycling bin, whoever could do it more times or from the farthest distance or whatever it may be.

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Mark Gubicza

One of his favorite players of all-time was Derek Jeter and he saw how stoic and matter-of-fact Jeter was with the media. I think he became more and more of a leader after (Tyler Skaggs’) death, when he knew all his teammate needed him there. He's really been opening up a lot more and become a better interview.

We did this whole cartoon thing a couple years ago that was a blast. He told me about how he had a bonfire back in Jersey and they had a big fire because he messed it up. He had some story about catching a 500-pound tuna or something like that. He’s really intelligent and really funny. He doesn’t like to talk about himself, but if you talk about his teammates and hobbies and activities, man, he’s pretty darned good.

As Mike Trout celebrates 10 years of service time, it’s time to celebrate Mike Trout

Craig Landis

If you ask him what’s his approach at the plate, one of the first things he says is, ‘Try not to make it too complicated. See the ball, get a good pitch to hit and take a good cut.’ Don't get in your own head.

I asked him one time, ‘If you hadn't made it in baseball, what would you have done?’ And he said, ‘I probably would have been a teacher and a baseball coach, just like my dad.’ He’s very good about keeping life simple. He's got a wife and a baby he adores. All he talks about now is his child. He has a nice balance with his family, and he enjoys playing the game. If I could be almost anyone in life it would be Mike Trout, because he has so much fun with what he does.

Eddie Bane

Duane Shaffer (the scout) and I were sitting there one day and he jumped over the fence and caught a ball and he hit a ball over the bullpen. Shaffer turned to me and said, ‘He does something like this every time we go to a game.’ There’s something to make you go, ‘Wow.’ And the fans are seeing the same thing. It's just the consistency of giving you some thrill every time you go watch him play.

I'm sure he owns a little more property in Millville now or wherever he lives here in Southern California, but he hasn’t changed. I hope he keeps playing long enough that it takes him a long time (to get to Cooperstown). I don’t know if I’ll still be around. But that would be pretty cool.

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