The date was June 9, 2009 – the first day of the annual MLB Draft.
As we all know, while the buildup to the baseball draft gets a lot of play, the actual draft itself doesn’t have the same fanfare as its counterparts in football and basketball. So this particular date wouldn’t normally stand out – other than the fact that the draft was being televised live from the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, NJ.
But this didn’t turn out to be an ordinary draft day.
Stephen Strasburg was the surefire No. 1 overall selection; that was pretty much a universal given. What wasn’t a given was what would transpire after Strasburg’s name was called.
With TV eyes on Secaucus, only one draftable player was in attendance for the prime-time event. As has been well documented – heck, there’s even a documentary about it – Millville (NJ) Senior High School centerfielder Mike Trout and his family made the two-plus hour drive north to witness his selection.
Trout had to wait … and wait … and wait … as the draft moved from the Top 10 through the teens and past the early 20s. It wasn’t until pick No. 25 when Commissioner Bud Selig stood at the podium and announced the name Michael Trout.
Two teams had a pair of first-round picks before the Angels were on the clock. The Nationals used their selections on Strasburg and reliever Drew Storen at No. 10. The Diamondbacks picked back-to-back at 16-17; you can click here to read about their ’09 draft.
Trout kept watching other players get drafted before landing on the Los Angeles Angels’ doorstep. You can click here to read then-scouting director Eddie Bane’s account of the Angels’ draft.
So … what was it like to be Mike Trout that evening? Trout, who has homered in eight of his last 14 games, took a few minutes to share his memories of that event with MLBTR. Special thanks to Tim Mead and Eric Kay of the Angels’ communications department for their assistance in coordinating the conversation.
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Chuck Wasserstrom: Hi Mike. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me for MLB Trade Rumors. You were the only player there the night of the 2009 draft, so I’m looking for your recollections from that evening. What was that night like for you?
Mike Trout: “It was crazy. It was unbelievable. There was a lot of stuff going through my mind. You’re anxious, you’re excited, you’re obviously nervous. You want to get picked. You know … hopefully be selected in the top three rounds. But being picked, well … if you’re up there on the first day, it obviously means something.”
You had a two-hour drive from 45 miles south of Philadelphia to the New York City area. Who was in the car with you?
“My mom and dad, my brother, my sister, my sister’s husband, and my girlfriend – who’s now my fiancée, Jessica.”
With that many people in the car, you probably didn’t have a lot of time just to be deep in your own thoughts, right?
“No, it wasn’t quiet. But it was a special moment for me, obviously, for Jess, and for my family. It was pretty special.”
At the draft itself, I’m envisioning being back on the school yard in elementary school. You know, one kid’s picked and then the next and the next. You probably weren’t used to being the one falling; you were used to being one of the first kids chosen.
“Yeah … it was different. Every pick that went by, you think you’re going to get picked there. Then 24 picks later, your name gets called. So, 25th – it was a little different. It was nerve-racking, but as soon as Angels picked me, it felt a lot better.”
Did your heart leap a little bit when you heard Commissioner Selig announce the Atlanta Braves select Mike – but it was Mike Minor – and the Cincinnati Reds select Mike, and it was Leake?
“Yeah, a lot of Mikes in that draft, so it was pretty nerve-racking. It made your heart drop a little bit and you’re anxious. You know, when the Angels had their selections, it was a little bit better when (the commissioner) said my full name.”
So you found out when the commissioner called your name? You weren’t tipped off at all that the Angels were selecting you?
“No, I didn’t know.”
Your dad played minor league ball with (former Angels scout) Greg Morhardt. I know you and your parents had dinner with (former scouting director) Eddie Bane. So now it’s the Angels’ pick at No. 24 – and the commissioner announces Randal Grichuk. What were you thinking?
“I knew the Angels were high on me, but when they picked Grichuk – an outfielder – everything was going through my head. For me, I didn’t think they were going to pick two outfielders.
“I was definitely relieved when they called my name with the next pick. It’s a feeling you can’t explain. You’re so happy, and you think about all the work you put in to get to that point. As a kid, you want to be a professional baseball player. As soon as you hear your name – obviously, you’ve still got to sign – but instantly you know you have a chance to play professional baseball, and it’s a dream come true.”
Growing up, you were a Phillies fan – and you knew the Phillies didn’t have a first-round pick. You knew that the Mets didn’t have one and that the Yankees had a real late one, so you probably weren’t going to be staying in the region. Were you curious to find out what part of the country you were going to?
“I was just happy I got picked. I didn’t care where I was going. With all the travel ball and travel tournaments I went to across the country, I liked playing everywhere. Obviously, the East Coast would have been cool with family and friends, but I love it on the West Coast – so it’s nice.”
The day of the draft, you were still in high school. What was it like going back to school the next day – now that you were a drafted baseball player?
“It was great. Everybody was coming up and congratulating me. The teachers, the principal, everybody, my friends. It was just a special feeling, you know? All the hard work you put in. Obviously, school came first, but you put a lot of time and effort into becoming a baseball player. Having that opportunity to play professionally, it means a lot to me.”
Last question … I’ve heard all the excuses about why you fell because of New Jersey, and I’m not talking about that; I’m going the other way. How important was it for you to grow up in New Jersey playing seasonal sports all the way through high school?
“I loved playing on the East Coast. When it was football season, I was playing football. Basketball season, I was playing basketball. And obviously baseball season, playing baseball. That’s how I grew up. That’s how I was raised. You know, now that I’m up here playing baseball every day, it’s great, but I wouldn’t trade anything. I had a great childhood playing in Millville and on the East Coast in Jersey. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
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Chuck Wasserstrom spent 25 years in the Chicago Cubs’ front office – 16 in Media Relations and nine in Baseball Operations. Now a freelance writer, his behind-the-scenes stories of his time in a big league front office can be found on www.chuckblogerstrom.com.