'Mike from Millville' is all smiles back in Philly

June 4th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Every August, when Major League Baseball announces its schedule for the next year, Mike Trout always checks to see if the Angels will play in Philadelphia.

But a homecoming has been a rare occurrence for Trout, who grew up roughly 40 miles outside of Philadelphia in Millville, N.J. He played in the City of Brotherly Love just once through the first 11 years of his career -- coming in May 2014 -- but he finally got that chance again on Friday, when the Angels opened a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Trout went 0-for-4 in a 10-0 loss, the Angels' ninth straight defeat.

Trout drove from New York after Thursday’s doubleheader against the Yankees to his home in Millville and woke up Friday excited for his return to Philadelphia. He fished with his 1-year-old son to calm his nerves, got his hair cut, then got stuck in traffic on the way to the park.

“I always look forward to this,” Trout said before the game. “When the schedule comes out, I look to see when we’re playing out east and Philly is the team I always look most to playing at. It’s always good to be back.”

But the homecoming was spoiled a bit by another tough result for the Angels, who have scored a combined three runs over their past four games. Trout was robbed of two hits by diving catches from Phillies defenders, which was a perfect microcosm for the way things have been going for the club.

“It looks terrible and when you’re not hitting, you look lifeless,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “But we’re going to stick with our guys and we’re going to be fine. But in the meantime, it’s difficult to watch and hard for our guys, too.”

The last time Trout played in Philadelphia, he was a fresh-faced 22-year-old just two years removed from winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award. It was eight years ago, also the year that Trout won his first of three AL MVP Awards while helping the Angels to the postseason.

Much has changed for Trout since then, as he’s established himself as the best player of his generation, signed two extensions to remain with the Angels through 2030 and become a husband and a father, marrying his Millville High School sweetheart, Jessica, in 2017. The couple had their son, Beckham, in July 2020.

“It’s gone by quick,” said Trout, a nine-time All-Star who finished in the Top 5 in the balloting for AL MVP in every year from 2012-2020. “I was 22, but it feels like it was yesterday. Obviously, a bunch of stuff has happened since then. Injuries. COVID. I’m just happy to be here. I’m getting older now and almost have a 2-year-old kid now. But the journey has been unbelievable. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

But the one thing Trout -- and seemingly the rest of the baseball world -- is clamoring for is a return to the postseason. The Angels haven't made it since that same year they played in Philadelphia, and that’s not lost on Trout.

"It seems like every year it's something like that,” Trout said. “I think the front office and a lot of guys in there, not just me, want to make the playoffs. That's the main focus."

Maddon understands the pressure to get Trout to the postseason and back on a national stage in October for the first time in eight years.

"Everybody is clamoring for Michael to make the playoffs this year,” Maddon said. “It just needs to happen. It needs to be seen. When you get a generational talent, it's wonderful for the country at large to be able to see them more consistently. It's up to us. But I do like this group a lot."

The Angels headed into the series in a rut, and it continued with their loss in the opener.  But Trout said he’s confident the club will turn it around and that he learned about staying positive and working hard during his time growing up in Millville, which is considered a working-class town of roughly 28,000.

"It's a small town with a lot of great people,” Trout said. “I love going back. I can go to a Wawa, or Applebee's, or Texas Longhorn or Jim's Lunch or Flight Line. I can keep naming all these restaurants. They just welcome me and I feel like a regular person there. It means a lot for me to go back." 

Trout, who had Philadelphia sports fans excited he could return home by signing with the Phillies as a free agent before he inked his 12-year, $426.5 million extension with the Angels ahead of the 2019 season, explained his roots keep him humble. 

“You have California, where you have baseball Mike, and you go back to Jersey, and it's just the same Mike from Millville,” Trout said. “I don't try to change much. I still do things with my friends and go out and be myself."