By Joe McDonnell, AngelsWin.com Columnist -
When the Halos take the field at Angels’ Stadium Thursday night to battle Kansas City in the American League Divisional Series, all eyes will be focused on number 27 bolting out to center field to assume his position. He’s the best player in baseball, period, and will likely has been voted the American League MVP. Everyone is putting the pressure on Mike Trout to lead the Angels to their first World Title in 12 years, so you logically would think he’s feeling the heat.
“No, not really,” says the 23-year old native of Millville, NJ who will be making his postseason debut. “I’m not going to go out there and put pressure on myself. You’re always anxious. I’m anxious before every game, but if you get out of your game that when you get hurt and the team gets hurt. Whether it’s a regular season game or a playoff, I’m just going out there and play my game.”
Which should be more than enough.
Already owning three All Star appearances, this year’s All Star Game MVP Award and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award, Trout put together a monster season in 2014, setting career highs with 36 HR and 111 RBI. He totaled 84 extra base hits and contributed his usual assortment of mind-blowing defensive plays in the outfield. All of which should easily give him his first (of many?) AL MVP Awards.
2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton (who will be making his fourth postseason appearance,
playing left and batting 7th in Game One) says that Trout’s work ethic will lead Mike to the type of performance everyone is expecting.
“Knowing the type of work he puts in every day and the competitor that he is,” Hamilton said, “lets you know he’s going to be extra focused and if he goes out there and plays his game, he’ll put up the numbers.”
Hamilton says it has been a pleasure to play with Trout the past two seasons.
“I’m just fortunate to come along at the right time,” said the second-year Angel, “and get to see him play every day. His comparison to the other great players is rightfully deserved. If he stays healthy, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia says the expectations are justified, but he expects his young superstar to take it all in stride.
“Mike has always played with a lot of attention on him,” Scioscia said, “and that bodes well for him. He’s never played the game any other way. Whether it’s spring training or regular season and now the playoffs, he’s always had the eyes on him, but he never changes. He doesn’t go looking for numbers. All he wants to do is go out there and help our team win.”
The Angels finished with baseball’s best record at 98-64 despite losing pitchers Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, while dealing with injuries to Hamilton, leadoff man Cole Calhoun and a bullpen that was mediocre at best until GM Jerry Dipoto retooled it on the fly. Trout pointed out the importance of being a team-first kind of player.
“Yeah, we lost Garrett and Tyler, and Josh had some injuries,” Trout said. “But we have some great chemistry and we stayed together as a team. And we had fun.”
Last October, Trout was back on the east coast where he spent a great deal of time hunting and fishing. This year he’s still hunting in October, only the prize is a little bit different.
“This year I’m hunting rings instead of deer,” Trout said. Which will please the deer population and all Halo fans.