More home runs than Babe Ruth. More stolen bases than Willie Mays. More runs scored than Ty Cobb.
Through four full seasons and part of a fifth, Anaheim Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout is on pace to be the greatest player in the history of Major League Baseball. And he’s just 24-years-old.
The statistics are eye-popping. But what’s really astounding and largely unparalleled is his versatility.
He led the American League in runs three times. In separate seasons, he led the AL in stolen bases, walks, RBI, slugging percentage and OPS.
He’s the reigning back-to-back All-Star Game MVP, collecting the award in 2014 and 2015. He won the American League MVP in 2014 and finished second in AL MVP balloting in each of his other three full seasons.
I spoke to Mike and asked him why he’s so good, the most creative smack talk he’s ever heard, about still getting nervous before games, and how he uses Body Armor to stay in shape.
PE: Does anyone still call you the “Millville Meteor”?
Mike Trout: Ha, the Millville Meteor, huh? You hear it every once in a while, when you’re coming off the field. My teammates give me a hard time about it, but that’s about it.
PE: No position player in Major League Baseball’s 113-year history has had a better start to a career than you. What’s the secret to being so successful at 24? It’s just insane!
MT: It’s really boiled down to two things – working hard and staying positive. There are a lot of negatives in this game. The people are going to be on you in the outfield and you’re going to be called every name there is. So you stay positive, work hard, and hopefully things work out.
But as far as confidence on the field, you try to take what you’re working on in the batting cage to the field. The biggest thing for me is staying positive. You’re going to fail a lot in this game; it’s a tough game. You’re not going to get a hit every time, you’re actually going to fail the majority of the time. You just have to accept it, to stay positive, and to get the negative out of your head.
PE: What’s it like to stand in center field all by yourself in an opposing team’s stadium and get heckled by thousands of people?
MT: I enjoy it. It just makes me want to prove them wrong. That’s the biggest thing about this game – you’re trying to prove people wrong. And you try to do your best at everything. It’s just the icing on the cake if you go deep, or if you make a great play and they’re sitting there speechless.
PE: With a last name like “Trout” what’s the most creative smack talk you hear from fans on the road?
MT: “Here fishy, fishy.” That’s the best one I can think of. They love saying that.
PE: In 2014, you signed a 6-year, $144.5 million dollar contract. How does that change the structure of your goals moving forward? When money, a prime motivator for so many people, isn’t something you have to worry about?
MT: I play the game to have fun and that’s the number one thing for me at this point. Obviously, money is great and everything, so it’s nice to not have that be the primary focus. But I try to get better each and every year and set new goals all the time. The biggest one now is that I want to win the race, to win a championship. A couple of years ago we got close and won the division. We made the playoffs, but it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. I’m always trying to evolve as a player and I don’t think that ever stops. It’s a fun game and an awesome feeling to be where I am.
PE: Less than 1% of high school baseball players play professionally. Why have you been so successful at the Major League level when so many other guys never even get there?
MT: It goes back to me just trying to prove people wrong. A lot of people doubted me, specifically because I was an East Coast kid. The Angels gave me an opportunity, I continued to work as hard as I could, and I took full advantage of it. Now I look back and it’s been a great career so far, five years at the major league level, more than that since I got drafted. But being up here with the guys and being part of a great organization, I’m blessed for sure.
PE: You’re one of the greatest players in the history of baseball at this point in your career and everyone acknowledges that. But not that long ago, you were just another young guy trying to make the roster. Do you still remember getting jitters before your first professional game? Does that feeling ever go away?
MT: Oh no, you can’t forget that. It happens before every game for me. The first game of your career is obviously the biggest, but you still get the jitters, you still get the adrenaline rush before every game. A lot of people don’t realize that, but it’s true.
I have always told myself that if you don’t feel those nerves and you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be playing. And I always enjoy the competition, the adrenaline rush before a game. And, just competing with your buddies at the highest level, every day.
PE: What’s it like to be you on the day-to-day? Are people constantly coming up to you?
MT: It gets a little crazy. I try to avoid as much as possible, but I try to also live a life – I just try to be myself. A lot of people have respect and they don’t try to bother me as much but, it is what it is. I’m grateful for everything that I’ve accomplished.
PE: How do you deal with women? I’m sure you get a lot of attention from the ladies.
MT: I’ve got a great girlfriend so I’m not looking for anybody right now! I’ve been dating her for nine years, so I am happy where I’m at.
PE: Do you ever feel anything other than confident?
MT: Sure. Like I mentioned the adrenaline is pumping before or during a game – you’re excited, you’re anxious. But the biggest things are just having fun and being confident. There really is no alternative because you just can’t be negative. And a huge part of developing that confidence is by working hard every day, and I don’t think that is limited to the baseball field. I think that bleeds over to all aspects of anything that you’re doing or working on in life.
PE: You play baseball because you love it, turn into a great player. The greater you got, the more you had to do things that weren’t really on the field, like dealing with media, people – what’s the biggest thing you’ve had to confront or get good at that you never would’ve guessed in a million years?
MT: Doing commercials. It was really weird at first, but now I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Like, on-camera things, it’s a little bit different. Now I’ve gotten used to it, but it’s something I never really thought of.
PE: How annoying is it to be the MVP runner up three times in four seasons? When you got home that night were you just like, “Damn it!”
MT: No. I just try to be the best I can. You know, coming in second kind of sticks a little bit. But you can’t take it away from the guys who came in first. Donaldson had a great year last year. Miguel Cabrera obviously has a great year every year. It’s a tough league. We’ve got a great group of guys. We play the best game in the world and we’re all trying to get better. You can’t take anything away from the other guys.
PE: Do you remember your first MLB homerun? And what was that feeling like?
MT: Yes I do. It was a great feeling. I had family and friends in the stands. It was definitely one of the biggest moments yet so far in my career.
PE: Does it get tiresome to be constantly compared to Bryce Harper?
MT: I don’t really think about it. He’s an exciting player, obviously MVP, plays the game hard. We both came up at the same time and that’s why we get compared.
PE: What’s your workout routine and how to you stay in shape?
MT: I drink a lot of Body Armor. It’s all over our clubhouse right now. It’s great for hydration, it’s loaded with electrolytes; it’s just great for your body. Since I started drinking it I don’t cramp at all – I used to cramp a lot. In addition to that, you have to watch what you eat.
During the season, you’re playing every day so you’re moving around every day. So it’s different than in the offseason. In the offseason you’re working out, but the majority of the day you’re hanging out. It’s always good to eat healthy, to get your greens in. My girlfriend is always pushing that I eat good food and do what’s right for my body. So, it’s really a combination of all those things.
PE: You seem like such a humble guy in a scenario where you could be anything but. Why is that?
MT: That’s just the way I was brought up. I was always told that if people don’t want a picture with you, or they don’t want an autograph from you, that just means you’re not doing nothing that good. Plus, I still remember when I was a kid and going to a game, trying to get an autograph, or trying to get a picture with somebody. And especially that feeling when you couldn’t get it!