“The Big Fish”
There has never been a better time to be a fan of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. If you’re not already on the Halo bandwagon, please feel free to hop aboard. You don’t want to miss this. Do yourself and more importantly your children a favor, and bring them along for the ride too. This organization and one youthful player in particular are setting sail on a journey that will last years to come and promises to provide the type of lifelong memories that only superior greatness can produce. That young player, as I like to call him, is “The Big Fish.”
How do I know? Because I was lucky enough to be a Los Angeles Lakers fan during the Kobe Bryant era. I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to witness artistry in sport nearly every single night Kobe Bryant took to the floor. Kobe entered the NBA as a teenager and is still amongst the elite players in the league, despite being in his mid thirties. It has been 15 years of sheer brilliance on the basketball court for the man they now call Black Mamba. But for those of us in the stands or on our couches in front of the TV, it has been a decade and a half of jumping out of our seats screaming in amazement while watching one man do things on a basketball court that his professional peers simply could never do. Goosebumps and the hair shooting up off the back of our necks have become fixtures in the lives of Lakers fans thanks to the body-contorting and physics-defying moves of the Mamba. It should never be understated how special those breathtaking moments created by the rarest breed of athletes are to the human condition and how they can somehow lift our spirits to elation. That is what the most elite of athletes can do for us. They don’t come around often, and we need to cherish them while they’re here. Guess what Angels fans, we have one right now.
That is precisely why you need to go buy a ticket to an Angels game. Or at the very least sit down on the couch with your wife, your husband, your son or your daughter and turn your collective attention to the young man wearing jersey #27. His name is Mike Trout and he is going to make your day. Not just tonight or tomorrow either, but quite possibly for decades. Standing at about 6’1” and weighing around 200 lbs this 20-year-old man-child can do EVERYTHING there is to do on a baseball field. Take one look at his neck and you might believe he’s a body builder. Watch him run from home plate to 3rd base on a triple in the gap and you might wonder if the USA Track and Field team will be borrowing him for two weeks this summer for a trip to London. You would almost expect a vapor trail to follow anything moving that fast. Better yet, the most appealing aspect of his game appears to be his passion and swagger at such an amazingly young age. This kid never met a bright lights moment he didn’t embrace. He’s not afraid to go do it, and he’s not afraid to tell you about it either. I think we can all agree that the great ones seldom are.
When you see a player at such a young age performing with ease at the highest level, it is impossible to not be left shaking your head wondering “how in the world does he do that?” The fantastic part of it is that he does it almost every single game he is playing in. The combination of speed and strength seems almost alien, like it came from another planet. Trout has played fewer than 75 games at the big league level but already his teammates will tell you he carries himself like a seasoned veteran. Consider the fact that the Angels were cellar dwelling with a record of 6-14, and are 20-13 since he was called up from Triple-A and inserted into the top of the lineup and it’s fairly simple to recognize the impact the young phenom has had. The kid is flat out getting it done. Arguably the team’s 2012 MVP to this point, he’s hitting .318 with 5 HRs 20 RBIs and a stellar .374 OBP to go along with a beastly .538 slugging percentage. Combined with his hustle, consistency in getting on base, and his ridiculously advanced ability to shake off a bad at bat and come back fresh in his next plate appearance, he looks like an All-star right now. His maturity is also far beyond his years on the diamond. Trout is said to be supremely confident about his abilities almost to the point of cockiness. Besides his ripe age, this is what excites me most about this young superstar in the making. The aforementioned Kobe Bryant was the same way. I remember so many teammates, media members and opponents bashing Kobe for being “cocky”. I would always laugh and wonder to myself if Michelangelo or Picasso were cocky in their youth? And if they were, would anyone blame them now?
Mike Trout already has the on-field skill-set to be a perennial All-star player in the outfield. He has the speed and plate discipline to bat lead-off for years to come, but also possesses the power and aggressiveness to hit in the three hole in a premiere big league lineup sooner rather than later. Recently Buster Olney, ESPN’s senior baseball columnist was quoted as saying his most trusted talent evaluator in all of professional baseball has projected Mike Trout to be “the very best player in all of MLB by the end of 2013, and maybe as soon as the end of 2012.” Is that high praise? Yes, and I absolutely believe he is deserving of it. Scouts galore have gushed for two years that he is easily the best prospect the Angels organization has had in 51 years. So don’t put it past him to be the best player in all of baseball before he even turns 22 years old. He is a blur on the field to watch, but when you catch him standing still the smile on his face is contagious. His uniform is constantly dirty from putting immense pressure on opposing defenses and tracking down balls in the outfield that hitters believed were destined to be hits. This young man is going to turn heads, light up scoreboards and be the face of all of baseball for years to come. He is drawing comparisons to legends Mickey Mantle and Rickey Henderson. Is it justified? I say yes, because he truly appears to be that good. Take my advice and get out there and watch him play the game. It is a mesmerizing sight.
Much like Kobe Bryant has done for years on the hardwood, Trout does something every single night on the diamond that makes your jaw-drop, your head shake, and leaves you saying “WOW.” It is an incredibly exciting thing for us fans to enjoy. Angels fans will get to watch Trout for at least the next six years as this young man transcends the game with his speed, aggressiveness, power and passion. But don’t wait that long. He is a sight to be seen already. I feel lucky and all Angels fans should feel the same way. I have seen this story once already when it starred the Black Mamba and I can’t wait to watch it again, this time starring “The Big Fish”. Nobody has crossed our paths with this blend of talent, steel will, and self confidence since Kobe came to LA. Trout can legitimately become the elite sportsman in the Los Angeles area of this generation. He will no doubt soon become the biggest fish in our Sea of Red.
Follow Drew Mumford Jr. on twitter @jrjantreshunt