Trout's long journey leads to Secaucus

Trout's path leads to Secaucus

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The great Al Kaline was sitting at the Tigers' table on the floor of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, about 30 feet away from where a young outfielder named Michael Trout waited patiently for his name to be called.

It made an impression on the Hall of Famer, watching the only top prospect willing to be present at this live event. After some nerve-wracking moments, Trout's name finally was called -- chosen 25th overall in the first round by the Angels.

"I wish more players were here -- it adds a little spice to it," Kaline said. "I give the young man credit for being here. I had a feeling he expected to go in the first round."

Oh, yes. Trout expected it. His family was there with him in the dugout at the scale-model MLB Park inside MLB Network's Studio 42. When the moment came and Commissioner Bud Selig finally said the words, there was an eruption of glee, as Trout followed his final day at nearby Millville (N.J.) Senior High School with a selection that led to bear hugs with all of his family members. He was the only Draft pick greeted by Selig with a pro jersey.

"Everyone was coming up to me at school today, wishing me good luck, asking for autographs," Trout said while answering a whilrwind of questions in his new authenic Angels cap.

"Waiting all this time, it's a great opportunity. ... It's a dream come true. It was nerve-wracking, crazy. There was pressure. My stomach dropped a couple of times."

The Angels had back-to-back picks, at 25 and 26. They used both of them on high school outfielders. The first one was spent on a friend of Trout's -- Randal Grichuk of Lamar Consolidation High in Texas.

The Trouts had been given an indication by their advisor, Craig Landis, that the Angels were interested in him. So when they chose a high school outfielder not named Michael Trout, there was a moment of restlessness.

"It was nerve-wracking for me," said Trout's father, Jeff. "I think Mike and Deb [Mike's mother] were more calm than I was. 'Are we going to stay here for three days?' That's what I was thinking. 'I don't want to get left in the dugout after the first round.'"

Jeff Trout had this same dream a quarter-century ago. He spent four seasons in the Twins organization as an infielder, hitting .341 his first year and then banging out 125 hits in only 105 games for a .321 average at Double-A Orlando of the Southern League. So what happened?

"I got banged up a little bit," he said. "Gary Gaetti was ahead of me. I saw the writing on the wall real quick. I had a college degree, I'd had four knee surgeries. I wasn't quite the player my son was, so I got out."

Trout raised a ballplayer, one who could dunk a basketball from the free-throw line, "a freak of nature" who was even willing to be at the MLB Draft all by himself, a darling in this crowd, without a single other Draft prospect to sweat out the selections.

Michael helped his team to the 2008 conference title while batting .530 with team highs of nine homers, 35 RBIs, 35 hits, two triples and 18 steals. He also posted an 8-2 record with four shutouts and a 1.77 ERA. He has signed to play at East Carolina University, but as long as the Angels sign him, he is eager to pursue a professional career that goes well beyond Double-A.

These days, Jeff and Michael watch MLB Network "on a 24/7 basis." It is on morning, noon and night at the Trout household. They were in their element here and were given a tour of the studios by Network CEO Tony Petitti.

"It's the most remarkable experience we've ever had," Jeff Trout said. "Tony talked to us about the whole operation. They couldn't have been nicer, to allow our family to be a part of this. It's a tremendous thing. I wouldn't pass this up for the world."

Selig said he was glad Trout showed up.

"He was wonderful," Selig said. "I knew he was here. I kept looking at the cards, because the reports on him were very good. The Angels were very pleased he was here. Anybody who has that kind of confidence to be here -- I hope more players can in the future. I suppose distance can be an issue. I just told our guys we need to work on that for next year."

Harold Reynolds was serving as analyst for MLB Network's broadcast in the first round, and he made an emphatic point of delivering a message to other prospects who are not participating in the College World Series. It is common in the NFL and NBA drafts for likely top selections to be on hand, further adding energy to the event.

"We asked everyone in the country to come on out," Reynolds said. "And Michael Trout had the guts and the nerve to come out and sit here through it. This is what the Draft is all about. I'm so happy for this one young man who came out here and stood at the podium with the Commissioner. To every kid in country who didn't come here -- I understand all the kids in the College World Series -- but this is your Draft, your opportunity. You should be here standing with the Commissioner."

This "one young man" was being compared to Craig Biggio on air by Frank Marcos, the director of MLB Scouting Bureau -- noting that Biggio was sitting right there at the Astros' table. Trout said it was flattering to hear that. What did Biggio think of it?

"It was nice. He's a little bit bigger than I am," Biggio said of the 6-foot-1 new Angel-in-waiting (pending signing). "We all had special qualities that we brought. To have that comparison made to me, I'm honored and I think it's a great thing."

The two also have a Jersey connection -- Biggio went to Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.

Jeff Trout remembered that one night recently he was watching the renowned Ken Burns documentary "Baseball" on MLB Network -- and that he started to cry. "I had tears in my eyes," he said, "knowing what was coming upon us."

It's here. Michael Trout showed up. The world saw him get drafted.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.