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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Trout brings something special to Angels

Justice: Trout brings something special to Angels

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Trout brings something special to Angels

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Mike Trout bounced off the center-field wall Wednesday night and broke into laughter. He yelled something, pounded his chest and seemed to want to run the ball all the way back to the infield.

Trout had leaped high over the wall to pull a J.J. Hardy home run back into the park, a spectacular play that will rank among the best you've ever seen by an outfielder. And Mike Trout made it look easy.

Maybe the best part came after the catch. His celebration of laughter and joy spoke volumes about this 20-year-old kid. Don't you love Mike Trout?

He plays with such energy and enthusiasm that it's virtually impossible not to get caught up in his magical ride. He has hustled his way into our hearts with his speed and talent and heart.

Beyond all those things, though, is the pleasure Trout seems to take in putting on a Major League uniform. For a long time, we wondered if he even deserved a spot on the American League All-Star Team. After all, he didn't play his first game until April 28.

That's not even an issue anymore. Trout is leading the AL with a .344 batting average and 21 stolen bases. He's in the top 10 in a handful of other offensive categories.

Trout has played just 53 games, too, and since he arrived, he has helped transform the Angels into the team we thought they'd be. They're 34-19 since Mike Scioscia wrote Trout's name on his lineup card the first time.

"It's been fun to watch," Scioscia said.

The Angels are winning with a lot of different things. They've got a deep, talented rotation and a bullpen that Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto have expertly reworked on the fly. They've got all kinds of talent around Trout, especially Mark Trumbo, who is having a monster season.

With contributions coming from every corner of their clubhouse, it would be a mistake to say they've ridden Trout back into contention or that they're feeding off presence. The Angels are too good to be dependent on any single player.

But Trout has brought something special, and not just an impact at the top of the lineup. He's having so much fun and goes at everything at 100 mph that he surely has rubbed off on everyone. Trout is also eager to learn, picking the brains of Torii Hunter, Albert Pujols, etc.

It's amazing to think some of us didn't even think Trout would make an impact this season. The Angels just had so much talent that there didn't seem to be a place for him. Trout was called up at a time when they were 8-14 and seemingly burdened by expectations that this season would be a sprint into the playoffs.

Around that time, something changed. The rotation began to produce one quality start after another. Pujols got hot, and so did some others.

But Trout also elevated them. He gave them a dynamic presence at the top of the lineup and made life easier for every other offensive player. Suddenly, things came easy for the Angels.

It's impossible to write about Trout without mentioning Bryce Harper. They've been compared to one another since Day 1, and probably will for a long time. That's fair.

But it's a mistake to argue for this guy or that one. This season has given us two resplendent stars, two guys we'll all be going to ballparks to see for years to come. They're part of what has made this season interesting.

Trout's numbers are better than Harper's across the board, but it's still early. With both teams seemingly headed to the playoffs, we're likely to see plenty of both of them as this season plays out.

For now, enjoy the ride. If you've got a free moment, take another look at Trout's catch at Camden Yards on Wednesday night. Perhaps the best reaction was from Angels pitcher Jered Weaver.

Weaver stood there staring toward center field as if he couldn't quite comprehend what he'd just seen. Meanwhile, there was Trout running around the outfield like it was Game 7 of the World Series.

Weaver took off his cap and pointed it toward Trout, his way of saluting one of those special moments. As Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, "You see him and you go, 'Good God.' I don't think effort's ever going to go into a slump."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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