"He's the best player in the game," says Beane. "He's the most exciting talent I've seen come into the game since A-Rod and Griffey Jr. There's a 0.1 percent chance of finding a player like this. It happens once every 15, 20 years—if that."
Greg Morhardt, the Angels' Northeast scout, is the man who signed Trout. When he filled out a scouting report on Trout at age 17, under Body Type he wrote, "NFL football player." A scout for Oakland under the same heading wrote, "Brian Urlacher." Trout is 6'1" and 210 pounds and runs home to first as fast as any righthanded hitter in memory—he was once clocked on a bunt at an absurdly fast 3.53 seconds. He hits balls 442 feet to the opposite field and steals bases at will. (He hasn't been caught in two months, stealing a franchise record 30 in a row.)
There is something else about Trout. He plays with boundless joy and energy and the confidence of someone who has passed this way before. The serenity on his round, boyish face suggests the baseball gods have given him not only stupendous physical tools but also slipped him all the answers to this maddening game. "Mike makes it look easy," says Eddie Bane, the Angels' scouting director who drafted Trout and who now works for Detroit. "One thing that stands out is the look he has on his face. It's, Wow, we're getting snow cones after the game! It's the sheer joy of playing."
So how in the world could 21 teams miss this Thunderbolt?
This is as good a time as any for an interlude about what Trout does not do well. It will be brief.
Trout does not sell himself. He has no signature style and does not fill up notebooks the way he does box scores. As Trout sat at Angel Stadium for an interview last month, his right knee bobbed anxiously. He is polite and attentive, but introspection and elaboration are not part of his game. His favorite word is neat, though it might as well be prettyneat because he never uses it without the modifier. "Mike is a man of few words," his father says. "So don't take it personally. I can't even get any locker room talk out of him. 'Yeah, we're having fun. We played Ping-Pong.' But he's always been that way."
It's as if Trout came straight out of the 1950s (with the buzz cut to prove it) when we liked our athletes more the less we knew about them. There is one way to get Trout to speak more expansively: Ask what he likes best about being a major league player. "Just being out there competing," he says. "Being on the field and having a chance to play. I love playing defense. I love hitting. I want to get up there and get the big hit. Do anything I can to help the team win."
It's the same answer he might have given as a Little Leaguer or maybe even as young as five, when Jeff, coaching high school baseball, would hear Mike throwing a tantrum in the batting cage and know that a worn-out Deb had finally tired of throwing BP. Jeff would have to pull a parent out of the stands and ask, "Would you just throw to Mikey?"
But this isn't kid stuff. This is Trout chasing history at 21, and 40,000 people at Angel Stadium chanting, "MVP! MVP!"
"It's prettyneat to have your home fans behind you and rooting for you," he says. "It's great. It's been fun."