Mike Trout is the Angels' budding young star, however, the outfielder… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Virtuoso that he is, the kid's still a work in progress. First, he needs to find a ballclub that will pay him properly. That might be the Angels; that might not. He's an East Coast guy after all, tight with friends and family. Claims to love the West Coast ... who doesn't? As I've noted before, God must have a crush on California. Much like baseball has a crush on young Mike Trout.
He's the sort of player the Yankees, who come to town next week, used to collect like coffee mugs, and my money is that there's enough hubris left in the organization for it to eventually swoop in and make him an offer he can't refuse. Manhattan Island would be a start.
Let's hope not. Let's hope that the Angels' decision to lowball him this season was just a case of playing the tough, tightwad uncle. Trout's making more from endorsements these days than he is from baseball ($510,000). Note that he has yet to buy a house out here. And he says the Angels have yet to approach him, even informally, and reassure him he's in their plans.
This morning, he is joking around Angel Stadium with a crew from a Boston ad agency, making his first solo commercial, a follow-up to the Super Bowl Subway spot with a dozen others and a later ad with boyhood hero Ryan Howard.
As a crew films from behind home plate, Trout is flicking fly balls to center the way you would a peanut shell.
"More follow through," a crew member requests. Everybody's a batting coach.
In the dugout rests a 17-panel storyboard. Don't want to spoil it, but it has to do with Trout ordering his favorite sandwich in a rather novel way. Not a blossoming achievement in storytelling, but better than the last episode of "The Office." Mercifully, shorter too.
"Just going out and being myself and having some fun," Trout says of the commercial work. "Just something different."
He's not the most quotable jock. It's more how he says it, how he carries himself and acknowledges people. The sunny smile seems his default expression, and then there are the Mickey Mantle mannerisms — the jaunty dipping of a shoulder, the rocking from foot to foot, a cross between a jungle cat and a jumpy groom.
That's just who he is, Trout explains, a 21-year-old determined to enjoy this sideshow before the Chicago Cubs show up for the night game.
Despite his blistering May, the team has leveled off again. Obviously, teams don't need to pitch to Trout, with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton behind him.
Did I just write that? If you think you want to be a GM, carefully read that last sentence, then start pulling your hair out now.
Still, Trout's batting about .300, and prowling center field again, his natural habitat. His husky chassis seems better suited to bowling over linebackers. Plus, he's somehow stolen Brian Urlacher's head and neck.
He might have been the next Steve Young, you know. A speedy but undersized high school quarterback, Trout quit football after his freshman year. Don't doubt that the move put his old man, an assistant coach, on the hot seat with his colleagues.
Didn't help that soon after, Trout hit a growth spurt — almost a foot — and went from Speedy Little Mikey to Get-Out-of-His-Way-or-Else Mikey. So, instead of coming out of college this month with a Heisman under his arm, he's got a rookie-of-the-year award and the gushy, golden-boy expectations of an entire sport.
Seems to be working out. So far, he leads American League outfielders in All-Star votes, and is third overall. Most important, the way he pops up and claps his hands after sliding into second base embodies all we love about baseball.
And now, Trout is making his first starring-role Subway spot, the you-have-arrived status symbol of contemporary athletes — Blake Griffin, Michael Phelps and soon, Jarvis Jones.
"We're getting him known to the general population," says Paul Bamundo, the company's director of sports marketing and partnerships, who has some 20 athletes on his roster.
Three hours into the shoot, Trout is wrapping up his assignment, with a dozen taglines that will be customized to particular spots.
Between takes, the camera rolls, because it's Trout's aw-shucks reactions that are caviar to ad agency execs.
"It's a four-bagger!" Trout says, holding up four fingers.
"Try it with your left hand," says the director.
"It's a four-bagger!" Trout says.
"Bigger," says the director.
Bigger? Dude, just wait.