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OC Register: Most Influential: Angels star Mike Trout is one of OC’s brightest lights on and off the field


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The search for the proper comparison has come to this: Mike Trout is the weather.

The Angels center fielder is a warm breeze on a winter day in Southern California. Just ask Lucy Dunn, president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council. She was asked about Trout’s importance to the community where he has played baseball for the past eight years.

How do you put Trout’s off-the-field impact into words?

“Watching Mike Trout homer,” Dunn said, “may be to Orange County’s economy and tourism a bit like how East Coast snowbound folks view the Pasadena Rose Parade on a sunny Jan. 1, another reason why Orange County is THE place to live, work and play!”

Measuring his worth on the field is easier. He is a three-time Most Valuable Player, an eight-time all-star and a future Hall of Famer. Earlier this year, he signed a $426.5 million, 12-year contract that will keep him in Orange County at least until he is 39 rather than find out what other suitors would offer him as a free agent following the 2020 season.

Locally, Trout is a magnet for huge deals. Two of the past three seasons, the Angels have landed a top free agent – Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani in 2017 and World Series hero Anthony Rendon this year – and both talked about the thrill of playing with Trout.

Rendon revealed a detail about his text messages with Trout.

“Based on his exclamation points in his texts, he seemed really excited,” Rendon said with a grin.

It is not difficult to imagine the role Trout’s long-term presence played when Angels owner Arte Moreno agreed to pay $325 million for Angel Stadium and the surrounding land. The Angels’ proposed agreement will keep the team in Anaheim until at least 2050, when Trout is 58 years old and – if his career continues this way – remembered as one of greatest baseball players who ever lived.

Trout has been an ultra-rich man since 2014, when, as a 23-year-old, he signed a $144 million contract. Still, somehow he acted like a kid, celebrating that night by going to The Ranch restaurant in Anaheim and ordering a 58-ounce ribeye steak.

This is what the Orange County Register wrote:

Saturday night, Trout and his party sat in the Carolina room, a small, private dining area. Executive Chef Michael Rossi, a big Angels fan, could see Trout and his party from the kitchen. The chef’s heart beat a little faster.

“He could be our Mickey Mantle,” Rossi said.

Or better, perhaps. Mantle was a notorious drinker with a reputation for less-than-inspiring interactions with fans. Mantle’s injury-plagued career was done at 36.

Trout didn’t finish the giant steak … or the contract. He signed a new one this year, the biggest in North American team sports history. Trout doesn’t appear to share much with Mantle (other than the gaudy statistics).

And yet, there are repetitive words everyone seems to use about the kid from Millville, New Jersey.

Genuine. Humble.

“His parents have instilled it in him to be humble,” said Adam Cali, the Angels’ manager of foundation and community initiative. “It’s his upbringing. He’s a good human being.”

It is Cali’s job to schedule Trout’s interactions with Children’s Hospital of Orange County and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“Mike is the same person privately and publicly,” Cali said. “He’s gracious. He gives as much time as people need.”

Trout has been a regular at CHOC since his days as a minor leaguer (when he was a teenager), said Amber Chavez, CHOC’s special programs coordinator.

“Kids scream when he’s there,” Chavez said. “He’s super happy and super interactive. He genuinely wants to get to know the kids.”

Last Aug. 7, Trout visited CHOC. Chavez remembers that day because it was Trout’s 28th birthday.

“Who does that?” she said. She had children sign a birthday card for Trout. He seemed touched.

Chavez, herself, said she has a policy NOT to ask the players for pictures with her.

“I normally don’t because it’s my job,” she said. But with Trout, she made an exception.

Zach Mauldin, a 13-year-old battling thyroid cancer, will never forget meeting Mike Trout through the Make-A-Wish program.

Mauldin said that when he’s a grandfather, he’s going to talk about Trout.

“By then, he’s going to be known as the Babe Ruth of baseball,” Mauldin said. “You’ll probably never see another one like him.”

Zach approached Trout in the runway between the Angels clubhouse and the dugout. He was prepared with a list of questions, including, “How did you choose the brands you endorse?”

Trout called him a smart kid.

Janis Mauldin, Zach’s mother, noticed something about Trout when he was standing next to her son.

“If he didn’t have a uniform on, you wouldn’t know he was Mike Trout,” Janis said. “He acts like your next-door neighbor.

And maybe his ordinariness is part of his charm.

“He made a really difficult time in our family into a good ending,” Janis said. “He is a great role model for kids. He’s not in the news for negative reasons.”

Chaz Long and his 9-year-old son Charlie have tried for years to get a Trout autograph … without much success. They go to Angels spring training camp in Tempe, Arizona, nearly every year.

Once, a photo was taken of Trout signing another boy’s autograph with Charlie in the background, dejected.

“Charlie was bummed,” Chaz said.

Then one rainy afternoon in March, Chaz and Charlie walked into an empty Tempe Diablo Stadium. The game had been rained out.

They went to the railing of the deserted field. That’s when Trout decided to go for a jog. Chaz said his first thought was that he was going to be really upset if Trout ran away.

“Mike ran right over to Charlie,” Chaz said. “Trout has this big smile on his face.”

Trout gave Charlie an autograph.

“My kid was stunned,” Chaz said. “He was so stunned he asked me, ‘Was that Mike Trout?’”

He was gone in a flash.

Like lightning.

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