Trout handling hype like seasoned veteran

ARLINGTON, Texas — There’s really no other way to put it, Angels’ rookie outfielder Mike Trout has not only taken the American League but he’s taken all of Major League Baseball by storm. Heading into Tuesday’s second game of a huge series with the current AL West-leading Texas Rangers, he was leading the Junior Circuit with a .351 average, 78 runs scored and 31 stolen bases.
But his impressive numbers don’t end there. The 20-year-old Garden State native also is second in the AL in OPS at 1.008 and also in slugging percentage at .600. And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s also third in the AL in on base percentage at .408. His numbers are enough to make everyone forget that not only is this his first full season in the show, but also the fact that they are watching a player much closer in age to his teenage years than his 20s.

As currently the longest-tenured skipper in the big leagues, Halos manager Mike Scioscia has seen phenoms come and go but even he admits he’s been more than a little taken aback with the impressive blend of natural ability and work ethic that Trout has put on full display for an Anaheim team that overcame a slow start to now be a factor in the West race, a resurgence that can be traced at least a bit to his young centerfielder’s emergence.

“Well, I think a number of things [impress me about Mike],” Scioscia said. “First of all he has the potential to do what he’s doing but very rarely do you see kids 20-years-old come up and do it. You’d be excited about him if you just saw what he did in the batter’s box as far as how he has a great eye. He’s got power up and down from the right field corner to left field line. He puts the ball in play. He works counts, all the positive things, hitting .350. You combine the elements of the way he runs the bases with his pure speed and ability to play center field you can see why it’s going to be fun to watch this guy for the next hopefully 20 years.”

However, his manager isn’t the only one who has been quite impressed with what he’s accomplished thus far. One fellow outfielder and member of the Rangers who has been in the majors for a few years also finds himself in awe of what the Talented Mr. Trout has done for his club’s AL West bunkmates.

“He’s obviously a great player. The most impressive thing about it is his age and how young of an age he’s having success like this in the big leagues. When I was his age I was getting beat by 88 mile an hour fastballs and I was using an aluminum bat. He’s obviously way ahead of the learning curve,” Texas outfielder David Murphy said.

And like Scioscia, he sees all the makings of a player who could be something special to watch for the next 15 to 20 years. “He’s confident in his ability. He knows what he’s capable of. He seems like a hard worker. He seems like he’s got a good head on his shoulders and the future is obviously bright for him,” Murphy said. “He’s a guy that could play in this league 15, 20 years and if he stays healthy and keeps the good head on his shoulder, it’ll be pretty fun to see 15 or 20 years from now what his career will have looked like when it’s all said and done.”

Besides his eye-popping numbers, one of the most impressive things about what Trout has done might be how well he’s handled all the increased media attention and hype about what he’s done in helping the Halos become relevant in the West race yet again. His manager likes what he has seen thus far but has also been around the game long enough to know that if the young New Jersey native keeps delivering at such a high level, the level of hype and attention will only increase exponentially.

“Well, I think there’s increased media attention but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have great mentoring on this team. There’s a lot of great veterans that I think kind of keep him in check and just keep him focused on playing the game,” Scioscia said. “He has jumped up and deservedly so gotten a lot of media attention. It’s something that he’s going to have to deal with. He has the potential to be a very special player and for a player in that grouping it comes with the territory. I think he’s doing fine with it right now but he’s going to have to obviously learn how to just stay focused on what he does and that’s playing the game.”

One of those savvy veterans that the Halos skipper speaks of is Vernon Wells, who only recently came off the disabled list in Anaheim. But even though he’s been on the shelf for a good part of the season, he too has been quite taken with what his fellow outfielder has been able to accomplish over the last few months.

“I think just his overall athletic ability [is what has impressed me the most]. It allows him to be everything on a baseball field, just allows him to have a unique combination of speed and power,” Wells said. “That doesn’t come along too often in this game.”

So, given his impressive stats and the huge impact he’s had on the Halos, it’s not surprising that not only is Mike Trout being mentioned as the odds-on favorite to win 2012 American League Rookie of the Year honors, but he’s also a contender for AL MVP. Of course, one current player and one former player will be watching to see if he accomplishes that rare double-double.

The first to do so was Fred Lynn, who won ROY and MVP honors for Boston back in 1975. Lynn had been the only one to accomplish that feat until some guy named Ichiro came along and repeated that accomplishment in 2001. Will Mike Trout make this a three-member club? We’ll all have to wait and see if that one comes to fruition but either way, it looks like the Angels have found a new star and all of MLB for that matter, so either way it’ll be fun to watch how Trout fares the rest of the regular season as well as in the playoffs.