Albert Pujols once said that Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout was the best baseball player he'd ever seen, according to three-time World Series champion Tony La Russa. While that might have seemed like a vast overstatement at the time, the more we see of Trout, the more it makes sense.
Scouts compare the outfielder to the seemingly incomparable Mickey Mantle. Per FanGraphs, Trout has racked up a WAR (wins above replacement) stat of 7.3, leading Major League Baseball two years running. The New Jersey native is already a two-time All-Star and just became the first player in modern MLB history with 50-plus home runs and 70-plus steals before turning 22, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Trout, who on Monday said that players who used performance-enhancing drugs should be thrown "out of baseball," is one of the faces of the BodyArmor sports drink campaign. He caught up with The Huffington Post to talk about his speed, the 40-yard dash and why he's still so motivated by the MLB draft.
You didn't play on the U.S. national team in high school and you had an offer from ECU [East Carolina], but not from traditional powers like Miami or Georgia Tech. Did that bother you?
Yeah, all that stuff motivates me. You know, being picked 25th and not earlier makes you just work at it that much harder to be No. 1.
Were you surprised that you were taken 25th in the draft and not somewhere in the top five?
Yeah, going in like two weeks before, I didn't really know where I was gonna go, and then MLB asked me if I would like to go up to Secaucus [league headquarters] and watch the draft live. Then I knew the Angels were really hot on me going into the draft. A couple teams before that were pretty high on me as well. A couple had two picks before me, and I just fell to 25th. I looked at it as an opportunity to try and prove some teams wrong.
Were you expecting to go earlier though?
You never know with the draft. Some of the teams say you're their No. 1, and their pick comes up and they don't pick you. As a player, it's kind of a different feeling.
Because you don't have any control?
Yeah, yeah. And being picked 25th, it was a good feeling [to finally hear your name].
You consistently run to first in 3.7 seconds. Have you ever actually run a 40? [The 40-yard dash is a popular NFL Draft Combine test. The distance between home and first base is 30 yards.]
No, I haven't.
No [laughs]. I probably wouldn't end up doing it.
You are seeing a lot more pitches at the plate this season and, in turn, drawing more walks. Is that a conscious effort you're making?
Yeah, I'm just looking for my pitch and not try and do too much. If I don't get my pitch, I'm not going to swing.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, your 89.5 percent stolen-base success rate is the highest among any player in history with at least 75 attempts. How are you so good, because it can't only be the natural speed?
I think it's just experience and, first step, reading pitchers. You know, some pitchers are quick to the plate and some of the catchers you gotta worry about. It's always about timing and getting reads to first.
Are you watching tape of that or of how guys are pitching then?
It's mainly how they pitch, and then you got times on the scouting reports.
You never played in college [Trout was drafted at age 17] and this is your first full MLB season, yet you play so fast and with such explosiveness. Are you ever tired or worn down?
No, it's staying fresh. Keep going in the cold pool. Keeping your legs fresh, staying healthy. That's the biggest thing for a full year. ... Getting to bed early. Any chance you get to sleep in, you sleep in.
Speaking of a 162-game season, when you look at a schedule at the beginning of the season, do you start to think about family birthdays and holidays?
Yeah, you either mail something to them or them coming out to see you. You always remember all the holidays. Being away from the house and your family the majority of the year, it's the little things.
You grew up in New Jersey, not exactly a baseball hotbed like California, Texas, Georgia or Florida. I think you only played 15 games as a senior. Was that an issue?
Yeah, it's different, because they play year-round. It's tough playing year-round in Jersey with the snow and just now having the weather.
If you hadn't played baseball, can we assume that you would have gone pro in football?
I don't know, probably, yeah, probably.
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