KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mike Trout wants to get a few minutes with Derek Jeter at the All-Star game. Or before it. Or whenever.
He doesnt want to be intrusive because Jeter is an icon and Trout, although what hes done as a rookie this season for the Los Angeles Angels stands out even to a legend like Jeter, is just breaking in.
Id like to pick his brain a little bit, said Trout, who lit a fuse in the Angels when he was called up from Triple-A in late April and is batting .341 in 64 games. I was such a big fan of his when I was growing up (in Millville, N.J.) and him being my role model and all, its pretty awesome being here with him.
If you think Jeter, a New York Yankees all-time great who has cruised past 3,000 hits for his career gets that all the time, youd be right. He does. At 38 and winding down a sure-fire Hall of Fame career, Jeter appreciates the acknowledgement of his younger peers.
(Trout) is fun, exciting to watch, said Jeter, echoing what so many around baseball are saying about one of the most exciting players to come into the game in years. Its not much fun when youre playing against him, because hes got so many different ways he can beat you. He beat us in defense, on the bases and hes hitting for average and hes hitting for home runs. Hes pretty much doing everything you could ask of a player and hes only going to get player.
The Angels, sluggish at the start of the season after the biggest free agent signing of the offseason when they brought Albert Pujols to town, have been a different team since Trout took over in the leadoff spot. After an 8-15 start, the Angels have gone 40-23 to move to within four games of the Texas Rangers in the American League West.
Its been a different Trout than the one who showed up as a 19-year-old in 2011 and batted only .220 in 40 games.
It feels great now, Trout said. Im playing my game and I feel comfortable on the field. I feel like Im in a good place and its just an incredible feeling. Last year, I didnt feel comfortable at this level. I was trying to do too much, trying to hit long home runs rather than just stay with my approach.
Trouts approach is to spray the ball to all fields and take advantage of his speed, which has been compared to are you ready for this? that of a young Mickey Mantle.
Trout has natural power, which shows up often. But hes also a tremendous and disruptive force as a leadoff hitter and has stolen 26 bases for the Angels to go with his 12 homers.
He and the Washington Nationals Bryce Harper, a 19-year-old, have arrived in an All-Star game ahead of projections, but not really. They are considered two of the most bankable Cant Miss prospects ever and were teammates in the Arizona Fall League last year with the Scottsdale Scorpions.
I check on Bryce a little bit, Trout said. I look at his stats once in a while and try to compete a little. Were happy for each other, happy to be in the big leagues. Were just two young guys taking it all in.
Despite Trouts impact, his Angels teammates try not to show too much respect.
Pitcher Jared Weaver, a fellow All-Star, said Trout is still expected to haul water and other beverages on the bus.
We kind of mess with him a little bit, Weaver said. But its all in fun. He has to realize that there are some guys who have been around this league for a little bit. Weve got two in LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen who have about 35 years between them. But Mikes doing real well with all of it and hes a lot more comfortable now than when he first came up.
Those veterans who remind Trout of his rookie duties also realize the Angels wouldnt be where they are without him.
Hes been an incredible attribute to our team since hes gotten here, said outfielder-third baseman-DH Mark Trumbo, who participated in the Home Run Derby on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium. We were struggling for some continuity at the top of our order and hes provided everything you can ask for and more. He really does have a joy for the game. Hes even keel and doesnt get down and has developed the confidence to realize that a couple of 0-fers arent the end of the world.
Its the same kind of realization Jeter came to as a young player, surely.
When the Yankees played a three-game series in Anaheim against the Angels in late May, Trout was 4-for-13 with a pair of homers and a triple. He remembers speaking to Jeter briefly when Trout reached second base.
He told me I had a good swing and just to stay with my approach, Trout said. Things Ill never forget.
Watching Trout fly around the bases and hit the ball all over the park probably made Jeter think about his younger years. But it didnt make him want to re-live them.
No, no, I dont wish I was 20, man, Jeter said. Im tired. I definitely dont want to go back to being 20.