Trout reels in kudos for impressive all-around game

Bill Shaikin
Los Angeles Times

Cincinnati — We see the greatness of Mike Trout every day. We forget how seldom so much history is made by someone so young.

Trout reminded us of his youth Tuesday. He sat in the corner of a cramped room, waiting for Royals manager Ned Yost to finish his news conference. Trout did not sit and stare. He pulled out his cellphone, scrolled to check what he said were 65 messages, texted a few replies, glanced up and smiled when Yost praised him, looked back down at his phone.

Trout is 23. This is what a 23-year-old does when he is waiting for the movie to start, for the waiter to deliver dinner to his table or, in his case, for his turn to discuss his incredible feats with hundreds of reporters.

When he did, the Angels star talked about the pregame ceremonies honoring Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays as baseball’s four greatest living players. To Trout, that fantastic four might as well have played in the era of black-and-white television.

“It’s awesome to see guys like that,” Trout said. “Growing up, I didn’t get to see them play that much, because I’m a young guy.”

Half a century from now, Trout could be the guy walking slowly out to the mound in a celebratory fluorescent blazer, the highlights from days like Tuesday shown as a future generation of stars applauds the Hall of Famer.

“Let’s not jinx it,” teammate Albert Pujols said. “Hopefully, he can stay healthy. He is a special player.”

On Tuesday, Trout became the first player to win back-to-back MVP awards in the All-Star Game, leading the American League to a 6-3 victory. No one has won three MVP awards, consecutive or otherwise. Trout also won his first American League MVP award last year

Not to say he is young, but Andrew Heaney, a promising Angels rookie, won his first major league game 16 days ago. Trout is two months younger than Heaney.

This game, as Tom Lasorda liked to say, is not that bleeping easy. But, before the game, Pujols told Trout to start the game by going deep on the first pitch, to the opposite field.

“I was telling myself I was going to swing,” Trout said, “but I rarely swing at the first pitch.”

The pitcher was Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke, who had not given up a run in 36 innings. On the fourth pitch, Trout hit a home run — to the opposite field.

“He actually waited to hit it out,” Pujols laughed.

“I wish he was still my teammate,” said Greinke, who pitched for the Angels in 2012, Trout’s rookie season. “I think he’s the perfect position-player teammate and (Clayton) Kershaw is the perfect pitching teammate.”

Kershaw was less than perfect in his one inning Tuesday, giving up two runs and three hits in the fifth and taking the loss for the NL.

During that inning, Trout hit what appeared to be a double-play ball. Kershaw said he thought he had the double play. But Trout hustled to beat the throw at first, and eventually scored the run that put the AL ahead for good.

Yost let Trout bat once more, and he walked. In 12 All-Star plate appearances, he has reached base seven times — five hits, two walks. And what’s more impressive is that in four All-Star Games, Trout’s first at-bats have amounted to the cycle — in order.

This game is not that easy. Todd Frazier, the Reds hometown hero, won the home run derby Monday but went hitless Tuesday.

“It’s the best pitching in the world,” Frazier said. “Not everybody is Mike Trout.”

Good on Yost for giving the people what they wanted, and for letting Trout become the first All-Star in eight years to bat four times in a game.

After the game, Angels pitcher Hector Santiago stood in the AL clubhouse, a wide grin on his face and an enormous cardboard box at his feet. Santiago is a huge memorabilia collector, and he had goodies coming from Trout.

“I try to get as much stuff as I can from him. He gets abused,” Santiago said. “But he gave me a bat, and he’s going to put ‘two-time All-Star MVP’ on it.”

Santiago did his best to put Trout’s excellence into words, to explain how he could be so much better than the rest of the best players in baseball.

“He is in his super prime, like Albert used to be,” Santiago said.

Santiago paused, not meaning to slight Pujols. “Albert is still in his prime,” he said. “He still leads the league in home runs.”

He used to be the best player in baseball.

“Trout,” Santiago said, “has taken over that role.”

Ratings take a hit

The All-Star Game drew a record-low television rating — 6.6 and a 12 share on Fox. The previous low was a 6.8 in 2012.

Fox officials said Wednesday the broadcast averaged 10.9 million viewers. That’s down from the 11.3 million for last year’s game, Derek Jeter’s final All-Star appearance.