Morhardt hung up, turned to Bane and lied, "It's all set. Ready to go. Slot."
In the war room Bane asked his scouts to write down the four best players in the draft. All began with Stephen Strasburg, the pitcher from San Diego State—all but one. Bane read Morhardt's list out loud, "Trouter, Trouter, Trouter, Trouter." Everybody cracked up.
All that was left was for the Angels to wait for their turn. They knew the Yankees loved Trout—"The only guy we had higher was Strasburg," Oppenheimer says—but New York would not pick until 29th. Seattle liked Trout, and with three picks in the first 33, including the second, the Mariners could afford to make a reach choice near the top of the draft. The Giants, with the sixth selection, were also a threat. The Nationals were sure to take Strasburg with the top pick, but they also held the 10th. The Diamondbacks would pick twice before the Angels and had sent a scout to every one of Trout's games that spring.
The 2009 draft was the first one televised by the MLB Network. The network invited top players to appear at the event at its studios in Secaucus, N.J. Only Trout accepted. Mike looked at Studio 42, which is built to resemble a small-scale ballpark, and said, "Prettyneat. I wish I had a bedroom like this."
The draft began as expected. The Nationals took Strasburg. The Mariners took college infielder Dustin Ackley, who has been a disappointment this season, hitting .232 with little power after a promising rookie year in '11. Next, the Padres took a high school outfielder—but not Trout. They took the guy who fit all the prospect molds: Tate. They would give him $6.25 million, a franchise record. He would prove a bust. He has hit .246 with three home runs in three years without making it out of Class A. He has also flunked two drug tests, been suspended 50 games and suffered a broken jaw in an ATV accident.
Then the draft really started falling the Angels' way (sidebar). Team after team passed on Trout, with most using their picks on pitchers who, so far, have yet to pan out. After the White Sox took Jared Mitchell at No. 23, the next two picks belonged to the Angels. They took a Texas high school outfielder, Randal Grichuk, with the 24th pick. Tony Reagins, then the Angels' G.M., called Craig Landis, Trout's agent.
In Secaucus, Selig announced the selection. When Jeff Trout looked over at a nearby table where the Yankees' delegation was sitting, one of them dropped his pen down on the table. In the Texas war room the Rangers people wondered why anybody would take two righthanded-hitting high school outfielders back-to-back in the first round.
Reagins, still nervous about the rumors about Trout's bonus demands, called Morhardt: "Mo, this is going to be tough."
"Tony," Morhardt replied, "you just got the biggest freak of nature on your team. And Mike is going to want to play baseball. He'll be climbing a tree after a week."
Three weeks later Jeff Trout called Morhardt. "Mike's driving us crazy," he said. "He wants to play baseball."