‘Too Good’ to be a Role Model?: Missing the Point on Mike Trout
He hasn’t won a Most Valuable Player award yet, but by the time Mike Trout is done playing baseball, he could win more than anyone to ever play the game.
The Angels outfielder, still three months shy of his 23rd birthday, is already recognized as one of the best in the game today. He’s in that esteemed ‘five tool’ category, excelling in hitting, fielding, running, throwing, and hitting for power.
The comparisons among the greats of the game have already started. This week I saw a graphic comparing Trout’s numbers in 2+ seasons to those of Mickey Mantle. In just about every offensive category, Trout had the Yankee legend beat.
With all of that going for him, I was taken aback this by a comment from Trout’s high school baseball coach in Millville, New Jersey.
In an interview with NBC Sports, coach Roy Hallenbeck said this about Trout:
He’s almost too good. It’s unrealistic. How do you look at a kid and say ‘Hey, go be Mike Trout.’ There isn’t another Mike Trout, so it’s almost to the point where it’s laughable how good he is. I always say it would be a lot better for these guys [current high school players at Millville] if he was the fourth outfielder who was sticking on the team. ‘Hey, let’s go be him. You can do that.’ But to say ‘Hey, go be one in a million, one in a billion.’ That’s tough to ask of a kid.
I understand, to a certain extent, what the coach is trying to say: not every kid has the physical gifts of Mike Trout. But to suggest that young players shouldn’t look up top this guy and try to emulate his approach is way off base.
There have been plenty of athletes in every sport over the years who have been gifted beyond belief physically, but for whatever reason were a bust as a professional.
Having the gifts is one thing, doing something with them is a completely different story. That’s where attitude and work ethic come in.
So what kind of attitude and work ethic does Trout possess?
In an interview with CSN Philly, Millville’s former Mayor Jim Quinn said:
What’s nice about it is Mike is such a good person. You get some of these superstar athletes that have attitudes and aren’t really genuine, but Mike is a genuinely nice guy. You see him signing autographs as he’s walking down the left-field line. It’s wonderful that such a good thing happens to such a good person.
As for his approach to the game, in a story on Philly.com, it was described this way:
They see hustle. They see enthusiasm. They see an athlete with a new $144.5 million contract who still plays the game as if he’s back in Little League in Millville, racing around the bases with a smile on his face and the thought of a postgame hotdog on his mind.
How about work ethic?
In a story on BaseballYouth.com, Bob Barth, Trout’s coach for three years with the Tri-State Arsenal, said:
To (Mike), baseball was more than just a game. He worked hard every single day, whether it was in the weight room or on the field. And while he had plenty of natural talent and ability, it was his work ethic that really helped him succeed at the next level.
So yes, while it would be nearly impossible for a vast majority of kids to possess the physical gifts Mike Trout has, there are still plenty of things this 22-year old does that young athletes would do right by copying.
Isn’t that what a role model really is after all?