JUPITER, Fla. -- Before the life-sized photos of his blue-collar face graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with the declaration "The Supernatural" and then the cover of ESPN: The Magazine accompanied by the words "Magic Mike", Mike Trout posed for a photo wearing a PG cap and a dark Tri-State Arsenal Baseball T-shirt.
That latter photo proved to be introductory in nature, and now can be seen on Trout's Perfect Game Player Profile page. His extraordinary skills and lights-out speed on the baseball field had him centered directly in the spotlight by the time he was 16 years old and playing for the Arsenal at the 2007 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.
That was roughly five years before he put together what is arguably the best rookie season in Major League Baseball history while playing this year with the Los Angeles Angels.
As this city again prepares to welcome the 85 best travel teams from all regions of the United States; Ontario and British Columbia, Canada; and Puerto Rico for the 2012 PG WWBA World Championship, the more than 700 professional scouts and college coaches expected to be attendance at the 15th annual event will all be looking for the next Mike Trout.
The 2012 PG WWBA World Championship begins Thursday afternoon and completes its five-day run Monday afternoon at the Roger Dean Complex, the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. More than 1,700 of the top national and international high school-aged prospects will fill the 85 rosters, including many 2012 Perfect Game All-Americans.
The scouts will certainly have a large pool of talent to observe and evaluate over the tournament's five-day run at Roger Dean:
• Sixty-two of Perfect Game's top 100-ranked 2013 high school prospects are on PG WWBA World Championship rosters, including No. 2 Justin Williams (Marucci Elite) and No. 3 Austin Meadows (Team Elite), both 2012 PG All-Americans.
• Fifty-six of PG's top 100-ranked 2014 prospects are on rosters, including No. 2 Drew Ward (Midland Redskins) and No. 3 Nick Gordon (Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler).
• Thirty-one of PG's top 100-ranked 2015 prospects will also be here, including No. 1 Kyle Molnar (ABD Bulldogs), No. 2 Thomas Szapucki (All-American Prospects) and No. 3 Dazmon Cameron (East Cobb Astros).
But the question remains: Will the next Mike Trout be in the house?
Trout, the Angels' All-Star center fielder who should be a unanimous selection as AL Rookie of the Year and who will get strong consideration for AL Most Valuable Player, made his Perfect Game debut at the 2007 PG WWBA World Championship as a member of Tri-State Arsenal/Cust Diamond Jacks. He was only a couple of months into his junior year at Millville (N.J.) High School at the time, and his reputation for stellar play on the ball fields of the Northeast was already building steam.
He played in four more PG WWBA events in 2008 for either the Tri-State Arsenal or the New Jersey Super 17s before arriving back in Jupiter in 2008 as the nation's No. 74-ranked top prospect. Trout had also played that summer in the 2008 Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., with a Yankees scout team, and according to Tom Verducci's outstanding article in the Aug. 22 edition of Sports Illustrated, Trout was asked to arrive in Jupiter wearing a uniform other than the Arsenal's.
After the Area Code games, Yankees director of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer invited him to play with an all-star team in Jupiter, Fla. Trout declined, saying he preferred to remain loyal to his local teams, the Tri-State Arsenal and New Jersey Super 17s. "Some guys may look at that and say, 'He doesn't want to play against better competition,'" Oppenheimer says. "Others, like myself, think it shows some loyalty. I thought it was pretty cool."
During play at the 2008 PG WWBA World Championship, Perfect Game National Scouting Director David Rawnsley wrote this report after Trout went 3-for-4 with a grand slam, triple, six RBI and four runs scored in an 8-3 Arsenal win over Deep South PG White:
Trout has a ranking of 74 in the 2009 class according to the latest Perfect Game Crosschecker rankings, but that may be due for a bit of a bump. Trout is an excellent runner with sub 6.5 speed in the 60 and a big arm in the outfield. He has the strength at 6-2, 190 lbs to generate impressive bat speed but has been an inconsistent hitter at national level events this summer. The offensive tools are there, though, and performances like this on the big stage are sure to help his stock with the scouts.
And following a superb showing at that 2008 PG WWBA World Championship, Trout did indeed rise to No. 8 in Perfect Game's national prospect rankings for the high school class of 2009.
It was correctly assumed by everyone in Major League Baseball that the Washington Nationals would take pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, and both the Angels and Yankees considered Trout worthy of the No. 2 pick. Neither of those teams had picks until the mid-20s, however, and incredibly Trout fell all the way to No. 25 where the Angels gobbled him up. Twenty-one teams -- including the Diamondbacks and Nationals twice each -- passed on him.
There were four other prospects that were originally scheduled to play at the 2008 PG WWBA World Championship that have already made their MLB debuts. One of those, 2012 National League Rookie of the Year candidate Bryce Harper, was supposed to be playing for the Braves Scout Team at the 2008 event, but wasn't able to attend.
As Perfect Game's Allan Simpson reported in a blog entry from that event, the school administration at Las Vegas (Nev.) High School denied Harper permission to attend the WWBA World because he had already missed too much school time while playing for Team USA in the COPABE Youth Championship. Harper earned his GED after his sophomore year, transferred to the juco College of Southern Nevada and was selected by the Nationals with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft.
Trout is one of 282 PG WWBA World Championship alumni that have made their MLB debuts. Almost 2,700 alumni have been drafted in the first 10 rounds and thousands more have gone on to enjoy successful collegiate careers.