Outfielder attends park's dedication ceremony at Empire State Building
NEW YORK -- As the former head coach of the Millville (N.J.) High School baseball team, Jeff Trout still remembers coaching third base while his son Mike -- less than 5 years old at the time -- spent the duration of nearly every game hitting in the batting cage adjacent to the field.
Now the reigning American League Rookie of the Year Award winner, Mike worked alongside his sponsor, BODYARMOR SuperDrink, to upgrade that batting cage prior to the 2013 varsity baseball season. In return, the Millville High School baseball field, which was also refurbished during the renovation process, was officially renamed Mike Trout Field at a dedication ceremony on Monday atop the Empire State Building.
"It's a field that's got a lot of history, it's been there a long time," Trout's father said. "I grew up on it, Mike grew up on it. I played there four years, and a lot of his other family members did, too. Then I coached there, then he played there. There are a lot of Trout memories on that field, so it's special and it's an honor to have it named after him."
Along with his parents, Trout was joined at the historic New York City landmark on Monday by a number of Millville representatives, including 14 current or former Millville baseball players, as well as Trout's high school coach, Roy Hallenbeck. Considering Trout graduated from Millville in 2009, Hallenbeck said this year's team was his first since Trout's departure that didn't really feature former friends and teammates of the now-Angels phenom.
"That is probably the most special part of all this, just being able to share it with the current guys and see the past and present of Millville baseball together like this," said Hallenbeck, who took the reins at Millville following Trout's father and just completed his 15th season at the helm. "Walking into the Empire State Building and seeing my players' faces, especially once Mike got here and turned the corner. I looked behind me to see their reactions, and they looked like little kids. It was really a great moment to be able to share this with them."
The celebration at the Empire State Building was the culmination of a long process that included revamping the infield grass at Millville while also making structural improvements around the field, such as the new batting cage. Along with the efforts of BODYARMOR, Trout allocated his AL Rookie of the Year Award bonus from last season toward the renovation efforts.
"For me, being able to give back is something special and an honor," Trout said. "So to give the kids, the coaches and my high school every opportunity to succeed with a better field, better cage, it's very important to me. And then having them all here today for this just makes the whole thing even better."
The original plan was to have the ceremony take place at Mike Trout Field, though Trout's hectic schedule made a midseason stop in Millville impossible. Instead, the plan was hatched to host the dedication at the Empire State Building based around a day trip to New York City for the Millville baseball team during the Angels' four-game series this week against the Yankees.
Following the ceremony Monday, Hallenbeck planned to take his team to see some of the other sights, including the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. They will also attend Monday night's game at Yankee Stadium before travelling back to Millville to end a day that started with a 6:45 a.m. bus trip, departing from the high school.
"I thought it was a great idea to have it at the Empire State Building once they came to me with the plan," Trout said. "It's a chance to be with everybody, go up to the top [of the building] and see the city, and just spend time with everybody. I couldn't have pictured it being any better than this."
For recent Millville graduate -- and former shortstop -- Emilio Santiago, renaming the field after the most prestigious player in school history seemed only fitting. As it is, he said, players on opposing teams constantly ask questions during games about Trout and whether he still has any connection to the team or its current players.
"This whole day is just awesome," Santiago said. "But back home, we get a lot of players -- even on rival teams -- that are standing on base in a crucial moment of a big game, and they're talking to you asking about how he is, what's he like as a person, all that kind of stuff. Now to have the field dedicated to him, it's well-deserved and, for me, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be a part of it all."
The day also served as a reprieve of sorts for Trout ahead of his team's series opener Monday night in the Bronx, where a number of family members and friends will be in attendance. Aside from the excitement surrounding Monday's dedication ceremony, the New Jersey native said he's been excited for much of the season to come to New York this week and play close to home.
"It's good to come back to the East Coast and see some family and friends and former coaches," Trout said. "I've been away for six, seven months, so coming out here today and seeing so many familiar faces, it's pretty cool. I just hope the whole process has been as great for the kids and my school as it has been for me."