Other than being the world’s best baseball player, Mike Trout is a regular guy.
He likes to hunt. He likes to fish. And he loves to root for the Eagles.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been hooked on them,” Trout said the other day by phone from Anaheim, Calif.
Trout is not so different from thousands of other folks in the Philadelphia area, except that he’s a two-time American League Most Valuable Player who finished second three other times and draws straight-faced comparisons to legends such as Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
At age 26, Trout is putting together his strongest statistical season for the Los Angeles Angels, despite missing 39 games from late May through mid-July because of a torn thumb ligament. Through Monday, the six-time all-star centerfielder had a slash line of .329/.464/.662, with 79 runs, 79 walks, 27 home runs and 18 stolen bases in just 91 games. He would lead the majors in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (1.125) if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
But when it comes to the Eagles, Trout is remarkably similar to lots of people from South Jersey or South Philadelphia or Southampton, Pa.: He lives and dies with their highs and lows on Sunday afternoons, he analyzes their offseason moves like an amateur general manager, and he approaches every September convinced that his team is going to do something special that season.
“I think they can make the playoffs,” Trout said of his expectations for the 2017 Eagles. “They made some good moves in the offseason, got some good additions.
“The division is tough. There are some tough teams in the division. But I think they’re going to be OK. They’ve got to stay healthy and take them one game at a time.”
Trout is active on Twitter (he has 2.34 million followers), especially when it comes to the Eagles. He’ll tweet out “#flyeaglesfly” before kickoff and after a victory for the Birds.
— Mike Trout (@MikeTrout) August 17, 2017
Trout has been a season-ticket holder for the last four years, with front-row seats at Lincoln Financial Field. He said he tries to attend four or five home games a season, depending on his schedule and the team’s schedule.
Trout attended the Eagles’ Aug. 17 home exhibition game vs. Buffalo, since it was an Angels off day before a weekend series in Baltimore.
“I try to get to as many games as I can,” Trout said. “I enjoy being there, the excitement. It’s a great atmosphere. If I can’t make it, my family is happy to use the tickets.”
Trout is friendly with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The two have hunted a few times in South Jersey, Trout said.
“I knew he likes the outdoors,” Trout said of the start of his friendship with Wentz. “I figured I would reach out to him. I knew he lived near my house in Jersey.
“We went hunting a few times. We both love the outdoors. It’s something we have in common.”
Trout grew up in Millville in Cumberland County. Trout said his father, Jeff, a teacher at Millville High School and a longtime assistant football coach for the Thunderbolts, was the inspiration for his devotion to the Eagles.
“My dad was a big Eagles fan,” Trout said. “We would watch them together. And both of my parents were teachers, so they would be off on the weekend so we would go to as many games as possible.”
Trout was a pre-teen when the Eagles were rising to power under coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb in the early 2000s. Trout was in the eighth grade when the Eagles made the Super Bowl in the 2004 season.
“It was so great because they were in the playoffs all the time,” Trout said. “I think I had a McNabb jersey. I had all kinds of Eagles stuff in my room.”
Trout said he had two favorite players in those days: Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins.
“I was a Westbrook guy,” Trout said. “And I loved the way Dawkins played defense. Those guys were so much fun to watch.”
Asked to recall his favorite game as a youngster, Trout said, “That’s tough. So many. When they made the Super Bowl, that was so exciting.”
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Trout is built like a linebacker. He said he played youth football in Millville and participated in the sport as a freshman at Millville High.
“I was a tight end and safety,” Trout said. “I even played some quarterback.”
Former Millville coach Jason Durham, who was an assistant at the time, remembers Trout as a freshman quarterback.
“Mikey was little back then,” Durham said. “He didn’t really sprout until his sophomore and junior year. But he could run.”
Trout never played football after his freshman year, focusing more on baseball. He played four years of basketball at Millville and scored 1,000 career points as a power forward known for his relentless offensive rebounding.
Durham became Millville’s head coach in 2008, Trout’s senior year.
“I remember thinking it would be great to get him to play senior year,” Durham said. “He would have been great. But there was no way. Everybody knew he was going to be a high draft pick [in baseball] and there was too much risk.”
Jeff Trout was an assistant coach for the Millville High football team for many years, through the 2011 season. Mike Trout has attended several Thunderbolts games in recent years.
But the true football passion of baseball’s best player is the team that plays in Lincoln Financial Field.
In the MLB Network documentary, “Mike Trout: From Millville to MVP,” Jeff Trout explained his famous son’s connection with his birthplace: “It’s in his blood — South Jersey, Cumberland County, Millville.”
Mike Trout says that when it comes to being a sports fan, the big city about 45 minutes north of Millville belongs on that list, too.
“It’s just something about growing up that close to Philadelphia,” Trout said. “The Eagles were on TV all the time, people always talking about them. You just start following them. You just get hooked.”
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