Mike Trout and the Evolution of the Man Crush

trout

“Mike Trout is a humble, clean-shaven baseball prodigy from a small town in southern New Jersey. He works at Angel Stadium, three and a half miles from places called Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Main Street, U.S.A. His story springs from all of them.” – Sportswriter Tyler Kepner

Man Crush: When a straight man has a “crush” on another man, not sexual but kind of idolizing him.

Man crushes on athletes develop pretty much instantaneously. They can stem from an actual highlight (diving catch, mammoth home run) to just the way that a certain player carries them self. Everyone has different criteria as to why they are attracted to, and crush on specific athletes. For me, it usually boils down to how said individual played/approached the game, and the amount of swagger they exuded whilst doing so. Monogamy is not something that I practice where sports is concerned. I feel like Annie or Millie from Bull Durham with the way I go through ball players. I have no shame in saying that I am a downright whore as a fan. I often crush on multiple players a week; sometimes even a night. I use them up and spit them out. Rarely though does a man crushes develop into a full fledged fan-ship. There have been a few cases though…

One of my most tenured man crushes to date has been Chase Utley. I loved every god damn thing about that man. His hustle, grit, power; hell I even loved his freaking hair! How could you not fall in love with a player that required an industrial amount of bleach and detergent just to get his uniform clean? Sadly though, my man crush on Chase has deteriorated these past few seasons. I blame myself … and the injuries… mainly the injuries though. It’s hard to stay enamoured with someone when they’re hardly on the field. It is kind of ironic though that the one thing that first attracted me to Utley (his all out style of play) is the same thing that has derailed both his career, and my man crush.

The reason we refer to them as crushes is because that is exactly how they cause you to act; like a 10 year old with a school age crush all over again. They can cause you to act like a proud parent. Sometimes you can’t help but brag to family and friends alike about their performance… “I told you so and so was going to do something ridiculous tonight!!” When all is said and done, it sounds like you’re the one who put the bat in their hands as a toddler and taught them how to swing it. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. All sports fans are guilty of it. It’s what causes us to overvalue players and become over protective when people criticize or bash them. It’s all part of being a diehard sports fan. It’s what causes you get excited, nervous, tense, concerned, and giddy or whichever adjective you prefer where that player is concerned.

Swoon, that’s the adjective I use. That’s what Mike Trout does to me. He makes me swoon. His highlights make me giggle like a schoolgirl, I feel like Homer when he hears the word titmouse. He’s baseball porn and I wouldn’t hesitate to pay $9.99 a month just to watch his game tapes. Trout’s the kind of player you create when you’re making yourself in MLB the Show – ridiculous speed, hits for power, hits for average, and plays gold glove calibre defense – a legit human highlight reel. Not to mention he’s got what the scouts call “the good face.” He’s what you would expect the stereotypical wholesome, all-American boy to look like. Trout’s the kind of kid you wish/pray for your daughter to bring home.

My introduction to Mike Trout came via the Anaheim Angels 2009 Draft Review in the 2010 Edition of Athlon Sports MLB Season preview. It was a blurb, an afterthought really. It had mentioned how the Angels had drafted two High School outfielders with consecutive picks in the 1st round. The first of the picks was a Texan by the name of Randall Grichuk. The second was a native from the Garden State named Mike Trout. The Athlon Sports blurb focussed more on Grichuk as he was the first of the two drafted and hardly mentioned Trout. Unfortunately for Grichuk it would be the only time (thus far) that he overshadowed Trout.

By the time I picked up my 2011 edition of A.S, Trout was not only the Angels top prospect, but one of the top prospects in the MLB. In fact he was ranked the #1 prospect by mlb.com and #2 by Baseball America (#1 was Bryce Harper). With Trout getting more exposure and advancing through the minors there was (finally) a solid amount of game footage and highlights to help spread the word of Mike Trout. Case in point:

Two things to point out:

1. Yes, Hit and Run was on, regardless it is still ridiculous to score from 1st. ESPECIALLY on a routine ground ball to RF.

2. How many teams took note NOT to lollipop throws in from the outfield with Trout on base

In 2011, Trout played the majority of the season with the Angels AA affiliate in Arkansas where he managed to rack up these numbers:

353 AB • .326 AVG • 11 HR • 38 RBI • 33 SB • .414 OBP

Those numbers are just straight gaudy. Needless to say he got called up to the Angels and made his MLB debut on July 8th against the Mariners. Although he didn’t make a huge impact with the Angels he still managed to get 123 at bats in 40 games where he hit a ho-hum .220. Not bad for being a 19 year old.

Trout’s 2012 got off to a slow start as he was hampered with a virus for the latter portion of spring training and was assigned to AAA Salt Lake City to start the season; he’d be there for just 20 games. In those 20 games though Trout successfully hit in 31 of his 77 at bats (.403) and was called back up to the majors before the end of April. What transpired after his call up is the kind of stuff that gains you permanent admittance to Cooperstown.

From his season debut until the end of the season, all Mike Trout did was completely wow the baseball world. In 139 games for the Angels, Mike Trout dropped this on Major League teams:

559 AB • .326 AVG • 30 HR • 83 RBI • 129 R • 49 SB • .399 OBP

Excuse me while I pick up my jaw…

Those stats are straight up absurd and laughable. There are a few more absurd things to consider when you look back at Mike Trout’s remarkable 2012 campaign:

1. At the time of Trout’s call up the Angels were 7 games below .500 (7-14) and in last place in the AL West. Not to mention that their HUGE free agent signing (Albert Pujols) was stuck in a homerless drought and had driven in less runs than most journeymen in the MLB. Trout would prove to be a huge spark plug to the Halos as they would be in 2nd place in the West and above .500 come the end of May.

2. Mike Trout for MVP?? Yeah, that one ALMOST happened. If it hadn’t been for Miguel Cabrera becoming the first MLB hitter to hit for the Triple Crown since Yaz in 1967, you can almost guarantee that Trout would have become the youngest MVP since Vida Blue took home MVP honours in 1971 as a 21/22 year old.

3. Trout was not the only highly touted prospect to make his debut within the first month of the season. Bryce Harper, the so-called LeBron James of baseball, was called up by the Washington Nationals the day after Trout was re-called by the Halos. Harper, who had garnered national attention when he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 17 year old, was regarded as THE BEST prospect in the game. Although Harper would go on to have a tremendous rookie campaign, taking home NL Rookie of the Year honours along the way, his season would come in a fairly distant second place compared to Trout’s. It really puts MLB in one hell of a good marketing predicament as they now have two under-21 year olds to build the future of the game around. Not to mention the next bar room debate question for the next 10+ years… who would you rather build your team around… Trout or Harper?? C’mon… that’s a clown question bro.

What will Trout do for a follow up in 2013? Will he put up a .400 season?? Will he join the 50/50 club?? Will he set a modern day record for runs scored in a season? Maybe he’ll swipe 70 bags… but is 100 really out of the question? Will the 15lbs of extra muscle hinder his dynamic speed? Most frightening, perhaps he’ll realize that he’s only 21 and come back down to earth a bit! Can we call it a “sophomore slump” if he doesn’t replicate his remarkable 2012 season?
One thing you can count on is that I’ll be wearing my #27 Mike Trout jersey proudly while I construct a homemade valentine for my boy Mike… Oh shit it even has stickers…

– $

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