SALT LAKE CITY — Former Salt Lake Bees outfielder Mike Trout has been blazing a trail to greatness since he first arrived in Anaheim, Calif., last April and buttoned up a Los Angeles Angels jersey.
Called up to the big leagues after only 20 games in the Pacific Coast League, Trout went on to be named the American League Rookie of the Year in 2012.
Even though the Angels failed to make the postseason last year, Trout’s arrival signaled a change in the culture in Orange County. The Angels were off to a slow start and their newly acquired free agent slugger, Albert Pujols, was off to his worst start ever as a major league hitter.
Cue the arrival of 20-year-old Trout. The young phenom took the pressure off of Pujols and the rest of the Angels' line-up and began to carry the team on his shoulders. It wasn’t something the unassuming Trout appeared to do intentionally, he just played hard every inning of every game.
Trout’s numbers at the conclusion of last season were gaudy — especially for a rookie. He batted .326 with 182 hits and scored 129 runs for the halos. Tack on 30 home runs and 83 runs batted in and you had more than just a Rookie of the Year candidate you had an MVP candidate as well.
If the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera hadn’t done the unthinkable and won the triple-crown while leading his team to the World Series, Trout may have grabbed the MVP trophy too. But it’s probably just as well the kid needs something to shoot for in his second season.
That season is now — the 2013 campaign, and so far it hasn’t been kind to the Angels.
Until Thursday night, they were in fourth place in the AL West with only the lowly Houston Astros beneath them in the standings.
L.A. has started to show a pulse this past week. It is on a five-game winning streak, its longest of the season, and has moved into third place in its division.
It comes as no surprise that the Angels are heating up at the same time their young superstar is. Trout, since the beginning of May, has raised his batting average nearly 30 points. His on-base percentage is up by 40 points, and he has added eight home runs to his April total of two.
Last Tuesday, in front of his home crowd in Southern California and with the Seattle Mariners in town, Trout hit for the cycle. He became the youngest player in AL history to do so. After striking out in the first inning, he singled in the third, tripled in the fourth, doubled in the sixth, then with the spotlight on him brighter than ever — he met the challenge with a home run in his final at bat in the eighth. The Angels defeated the Mariners 12-0.
And to prove his cycle wasn’t a fluke, Trout began the game the following night with a single in the first inning and a triple in the bottom of the second. If he hadn’t struck out in his next two at-bats, he may have had a shot at the cycle on consecutive nights.
Trout has an “aw shucks” Mickey Mantle way about himself that is not only endearing to fans, it's dangerous to opposing pitchers. His teammates obviously feed off his youthful energy as they have all started to get in on the act.
It’s not a stretch to think if Trout stays hot, the Angels can continue their turnaround and make a case for the AL West division crown, and possibly the pennant. It’s just too bad for the halos that Trout can’t pitch.
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To contribute to DNews preps for your area, inquire at 801.237.2143.