Angels practice what they preach

Trout, Heaney set examples for youth ballplayers

Angels practice what they preach

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Featuring arguably the game's most dynamic young player in Mike Trout, it's no surprise that the Angels draw quite a young crowd, especially during Spring Training, when access is at a premium.

On Monday, the Yukon Millers, a high school baseball team from Oklahoma City, were lucky enough to secure front-row seats as Trout and the rest of the Los Angeles-based club put on a pregame clinic at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

"I'm watching Mike Trout take batting practice, and I'm noticing that he's hitting the ball middle, away, middle, away," said Millers coach Jim Drummond. "Mike Trout can hit it a mile, but he's doing that for a reason.

"There are some fundamentals that we work on, and obviously these guys do it the best. So it's good for [our team] to see what we're really supposed to be doing."

But Trout admits that it's not all work. "The most fun part of the game to practice is hitting," he said. "I love to take BP."

The Millers, who are in town for the annual Best of the West tournament at Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria, Ariz., have a unique connection to the Angels. Drummond previously coached at Putnam City High School, also in Oklahoma City, and pitcher Andrew Heaney graduated from his program.

"When I first saw Andrew, he was going into ninth grade, and I'll bet he didn't weigh 100 pounds," Drummond said of the now 6-foot-2, 185-pound southpaw. "He was playing first base and made a really good play and picked it, and I thought, 'That little kid knows how to play baseball.'

"He was a really good athlete, and he just kept getting better and better. If a situation arose once [and he made an error], he would learn from it, and it didn't happen twice. He had the ability to adapt."

That resilience is something Heaney's teammates understand the importance of to this day.

"[My parents] were always telling us that whether you succeed or fail, you have to get up and go at it again," said fellow pitcher and former Little League World Series participant Cory Rasmus.

And it was especially valuable for Heaney last spring, when he was optioned to Triple-A just before Opening Day and spent his first 14 games with the Salt Lake Bees. It wasn't until late June that he was called up to the Big League club.

"At the very beginning of last year, he came to watch us play," Drummond recalled. "And we got beaten pretty badly. Afterward, he talked to the kids about trusting the process, and doing the same things over and over. It was not only true for us, but for him. The speech was not just a talk; he really did trust the process. It was an important lesson."

Allison Duffy-Davis is an associate editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.