baseball coach Roy Hallenbeck took a trip to Disneyland two weeks ago with his family, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rookie sensation Mike Trout, whom Hallenbeck coached from 2006-2009 at Millville, accompanied them for the day.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound outfielder, who leads the American League in hitting (.341), went virtually unrecognized. That's less likely to occur in the future, as the baseball world has taken notice of the 20-year-old mega star who will make his first All-Star Game appearance Tuesday in Kansas City. He is the 20th All-Star ever to make the team before turning 21.
"There were some looks," Hallenbeck said, "because he looks like he's somebody."
That's been the story on Trout since high school: despite looking like an elite, world-class talent, his humble nature has allowed him simultaneously to blend in as well as become the pride of Millville, N.J.
"Simply he was no different than any other kid," Hallenbeck said. "People talk about what it was like to have him here. It was like every other kid we have, other than the physical abilities. We used to always say, if you never saw any of our kids play and just walked into our locker room, you wouldn't be able to tell who the first-rounder was."
Outside the locker room, Trout began differentiating himself even before he reached the outfield.
"If you knew anything about the sport, you could just tell by the way he walked how good he was," said Michael McGarry, who covered Trout for the Press of Atlantic City.
McGarry recalled Trout's outstanding speed: turning routine ground balls to shortstop into infield hits and stretching doubles into triples.
"Seeing a ball in the gap, you're just trained after 20 years of watching high school baseball, to think that's a double," McGarry said. "You look back in the infield to find the runner and Trout would be pulling into third base with a triple."
Currently, Trout has 26 stolen bases, the most in the American League and only four behind Dee Gordon of the Dodgers for most in the majors.
Trout's gifts, especially his patience at the plate, were clear even as a freshman. The same well-trained eye that has allowed Trout's on-base percentage to approach .400 manifested itself during his ninth-grade season in a game against Lenape.
On the mound for Lenape was right-handed pitcher Sean Black, who later became a second round draft pick. Black was hitting at 92-23 mph and topping out at 96 during the game, according to Hallenbeck. Trout, not yet 15 years old, worked Black for four walks, to the amazement of Hallenbeck and, in all likelihood, the shock of Black.
"You watch what he does now, he won't swing at a pitch an inch off the plate," Hallenbeck said. "I guess we could've seen that coming then."
From there, Trout's road to stardom did not take very long. By the end of his sophomore season, he was well-known among MLB scouts. As a senior, Hallenbeck occasionally had to readjust Millville practices to fit in time for Trout to hit in front of scouts. He'd often take batting practice after a game to placate scouts who wanted to see him take additional cuts.
"Every game he went to, he was the focus," McGarry said. "If the other team got him out, they'd act like they just won the World Series. He never got flustered by any of that. He always just maintained a pretty level head throughout everything."
That explains why when Trout is back in New Jersey, he still hangs with the same friends and visits the same places he did before being drafted by the Angels.
Over the winter, McGarry was live-tweeting from a Millville basketball game, when he received a reply from Trout, who commented that Millville was struggling with turnovers. As it turned out, Trout was watching the game from the other side of the gym.
When the Angels visited Baltimore during the last week of June, Hallenbeck and a handful of Trout's former Millville teammates met him for dinner. The only thing discernibly different about Trout now is that "He dresses a little nicer," Hallenbeck joked.
Regardless of where his professional career takes him, Trout, whose father still teaches and helps coach football at Millville High, will have the town of Millville behind him.
"The town has relished his success," McGarry said. "A lot of times, kids with his ability end up somewhere else. (Fellow all-star phenom Bryce Harper left high school after two years to attend junior college) He stayed in town, played for the local high school, and everyone feels a connection to him."