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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Angels made Trout a rich young man

Jim Ecker        
Mike Trout agreed to a $1.215 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels this past July after being selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, but there was a small problem. He was much too young to sign the contract by himself.

Trout was only 17 at the time. According to Major League rules, you have to be at least 21 to sign a pro contract without a parent or legal guardian.

"I couldn't actually sign it," Trout told Perfect Game USA. "My parents had to be there and sign it with me."

They were happy to oblige, of course.

It took only three weeks for Trout and the Angels to negotiate that $1.215 million deal, and then he eagerly began his pro baseball career in the Arizona Rookie League. "Being young, I wanted to get started as soon as I can," he said. "I was definitely anxious to get going."

Trout, an outfielder from Millville, N.J., was the 25th pick in the draft this past June. He was still 17 when he began playing in the Arizona Rookie League and quickly demonstrated why the Angels consider him a top prospect, hitting a robust .360 and playing well in the field.

Trout enjoyed Rookie Ball, for the most part. It was good baseball, but felt like playing in a vacuum. "There were like 25 fans every game," he said.

That changed when he was promoted to the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Class A Midwest League on Sept. 1. The Kernels averaged a shade under 2,500 fans for the regular season this year and drew 3,811 folks on the day Trout spoke with Perfect Game.

"This is great," he said, standing outside the Kernels locker room after the ballgame. "I'm having fun. There are great people here, good coaches. I'm just out there having fun."

Trout isn't a 17-year-old kid anymore. He turned 18 on Aug. 7, so at least now he can vote.

Trout is a rookie in pro ball, but he's a veteran in the eyes of Perfect Game USA. He played in nine Perfect Game events in 2007 and 2008 when he was in high school, giving him wide exposure in front of college and pro scouts. Now, ironically, he was playing on Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids (Iowa) when he got promoted to the Kernels.

Trout appeared in five games for the Kernels near the end of the Midwest League regular season, going 4-for-15 for a .267 batting average. He also drew four walks, hiking his on-base percentage to a healthy .421 heading into the Midwest League playoffs. The Kernels beat Peoria in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to Burlington in the division finals.

Trout helped the Angels' team in the Rookie League make the playoffs, then went along for the ride with the Kernels in the Midwest League playoffs. He got into just one game in the Midwest League playoffs, as a pinch-runner, but got to soak up the atmosphere and look ahead.

"It's great," he said. "I mean, I've been in two playoff races so far."

By the way, Trout is not a millionaire yet. That $1.215 million was split into two payments, one this summer and one later, and he'll have hefty taxes to pay. Overall, though, life is good.

"It's the best time of my life right now," he said. "I mean, you play every day, you come to the park every day. It's great."

Trout will return to Arizona for the fall Instructional League from Sept. 21 to Oct. 21, then he'll get a chance to relax before reporting to spring training and being assigned to a team for 2010. He might be back in Cedar Rapids, playing on Perfect Game Field again.

Life is definitely good. "Just having fun," he said.
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