SEATTLE -- Mike Trout reported to the dugout earlier than usual on Saturday. He was wearing a red Angels hoodie, still feeling a little under the weather on a breezy afternoon, but he wanted to watch the Mariners set up for the ceremony that would honor the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr.'s number. As the half-hour festivities went on, Trout stood on the top step, right next to Albert Pujols, observing every moment.
"It was giving me chills just thinking about it," Trout said. "What a great guy. The way he played the game -- no one really hated him. Everybody loved him. It was pretty special being here and seeing it."
Trout, who aspires to be just as beloved and agreeable, showed why he is so often compared to Griffey in a three-game series against the Mariners, which nonetheless ended with his team getting swept. Trout belted first-inning three-run homers on Friday and Saturday, first off Felix Hernandez and then off Taijuan Walker. On Sunday, in the early stages of a 3-1 loss, he robbed a grand slam on his 25th birthday, the highlight of a game that otherwise saw him strike out four times against James Paxton.
It came in the fourth inning, with the bases loaded, one out, the game tied at 1 and the Angels' starter, Matt Shoemaker, struggling through command issues. Leonys Martin lifted a deep drive to center, high enough that it allowed Trout to settle into the warning track and time his jump.
"It was hit well," Trout said. "Off the bat, I thought it was gone."
But Trout exploded off the dirt, getting his left elbow just above the wall and extending far enough to bring the baseball down. He briefly collapsed to the ground, then quickly sprung to his feet and flung the ball into the infield.
Martin, who had to settle for a sacrifice fly, had both his hands on his helmet.
"Part of the game," Martin said afterwards. "It was a nice play."
Trout robbed four home runs as a rookie in 2012, one of four players to do that over an eight-year span. His best that summer came in Baltimore, on June 27, a full-extension leap to rob J.J. Hardy with a play that was undoubtedly the greatest that season. An even better one might have come on Sept. 26 of last year, when Trout found a way to get most of his torso over Angel Stadium's center-field wall to rob another Mariners player, Jesus Montero.
But until Sunday, none avoided a grand slam.
"It was up there, obviously because it was a big play in the game," Trout said.
"He deserves to get struck out four times after robbing us, Leonys, of four RBIs," Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen said, referencing Paxton, the first pitcher to strike Trout out four times in the same game. "Just an incredible catch. I've seen him do that against us numerous times, and I've got to say I'm pretty fed up with it."
Trout entered Sunday with more hits (868) than Pete Rose, more homers (160) than Barry Bonds, more runs (565) than Rickey Henderson and more total bases (1,586) than Hank Aaron all had before their respective 25th birthdays, as pointed out by ESPN Stats and Info. He was on pace to finish the year with 48.3 Wins Above Replacement, the highest ever through a player's age-24 season.
In short, Trout is off to possibly the best start in baseball history.
And that even includes Griffey, whose iconic No. 24 was spray-painted in center field at Safeco Field throughout the weekend, right below Trout's feet before he robbed another home run.
The moment wasn't lost on him.
"I thought that was pretty cool," Trout said. "I saw him up there watching. Obviously his presence, the way he played defense -- he took pride in it and so do I."
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.