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June 06, 2022

Mike Trout returns home to applause and leaves with a slumping team

He never liked to talk about himself. Mike Trout still doesn’t. The three-time American League Most Valuable Player, nine-time Major League All-Star, generational talent and future Hall of Famer is now as he was when he roamed centerfield at Millville High School, in New Jersey, on a field that now bears his name.

Trout would rather talk Eagles, Sixers and fishing with his buddies and his son than anything involving himself. He was pulled every which direction when he came to Citizens Bank Park over the critical weekend series for two teams that looked like they were heading in the same direction.

The Phillies appeared in free fall, before letting go of manager Joe Girardi on Friday and sweeping the Angels.

Trout left with his Los Angeles Angels lugging an 11-game losing streak back home when they host the Boston Red Sox. It’s currently the longest losing streak in MLB and the Angels’ longest in almost six years, after Bryson Stott’s dramatic three-run walk-off homer gave the Phils a 9-7 victory on Sunday.

Trout went 0-for-11 with four strikeouts in the series and is mired in the worst slump of his career, going 0-for-26, exceeding his previous worst stretch, a 0-for-21 run he was on from May 11-18, 2018.

“Things will start falling,” Trout said after the Angels’ loss on Sunday. “Had some good at-bats today, just try to take it into tomorrow. We're in it, obviously, on a losing streak. But we're not going to just come in here and put our heads down. We're going to keep grinding. Everybody is in here fighting. It's obviously good to be back. I want another outcome, but it's good to see some people I haven't seen in a while.

“It's baseball. There's going to be some good times and there's going to be some bad times. Right now, it's just a bad time. I'm just trying to get into a good position to hit. And right now, I'm not.”

Still, the 30-year-old was batting .274 with 13 home runs and 28 RBIs. Trout has not had a hit since going 3-for-4, with a homer, two runs batted in and two runs scored in a 6-5 loss to Toronto on May 28.

He continued to wear a smile during batting practice on Sunday, spraying home run shots into the left, center and right field stands for fans cheering for him.

On Saturday, as Trout was leaving chapel services in the bowels of Citizens Bank Park, he remained upbeat and positive.

“Why not, I’m home, seeing a lot of people I don’t always get to see, and this is home, and it’s always going to be home, I love coming back to this area,” said Trout, who last visited Citizens Bank Park in 2014 when he was 22. “There is a lot that’s changed since I last played here. I’m married (to his Millville High School girlfriend Jessica). I have a son (Beckham born in July 2020). That’s changed, but I haven’t.

“I’m still okay with saying I’m Mike from Millville.”

The only thing left for Trout to do is win.

Ironically, the last time — and only time— Trout was in the postseason was when he last visited Citizens Bank Park in 2014. The Angels won American League West Division and Trout won his first MVP award, hitting .287 with 36 home runs, a career-best 111 runs batted in and a career-best 338 total bases. The Angels had some players on that team, like future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, and some pitching, which seems has been the team’s Achilles heel since Trout has been with them.

“The playoffs are the main focus for me, and not just me, everyone on this team, every year,” Trout said. “This current run doesn’t help. We’ll get out of it. I’ll get out of it. I think the big key for me, and for us, is not to press. We continue with what we're doing, we keep our focus, we’re going to be okay.”

Angels’ manager Joe Maddon feels the same way. He knows the pressure Trout is under to reach the postseason for the first time in eight years.

“Mike has definitely accepted more of a leadership role since I’ve been manager,” Maddon said. “The thing about the last couple of years, he’s literally been the shadows of Albert and Justin Upton and now that those fellas aren’t here, it’s very easy to assume the mantle.

“Those guys were great for us, but not since those guys are gone, I’ve seen Mike’s comfort raise and he’s been able to spread his wings a bit. We all want to make the playoffs this year.

“When you get a generational talent like Mike, you need to use that window when he’s here to reach the playoffs and let the whole country be able to see them more consistently. He’s just trying a little bit too hard (right now); that’s how I see it. He’s one of the leaders of the team. He wants it to be right. He wants to get us there. He’s a very accountable human being. He’s all of these different things, and I think he might be trying a little bit too hard.”

As for Trout, he’s going to continue to be who he is.

In 2018, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the reason Trout is not a more marketable crossover star is because he doesn’t spend the time marketing himself off the field as he should.

“Player marketing requires one thing for sure — the player,” Manfred said at the time. “You cannot market a player passively. You can't market anything passively. You need people to engage with those to whom you are trying to market in order to have effective marketing. We are very interested in having our players more engaged and having higher-profile players and helping our players develop their individual brand. But that involves the player being actively engaged.”

Trout remains loyal to who he is and to the Angels organization, which drafted him No. 25 overall in the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Millville.

“I like to be true to who I am, I don’t know how to be anyone else,” Trout said. “There is the ‘baseball version star from California,’ and there is the guy who likes hanging out with his friends, going to Eagles and Sixers games, going to restaurants like Applebee's, or Texas Longhorn or Flight Line, nothing fancy. I like keeping it the same and keeping it the same is the same Mike from Millville.”

Throughout the weekend Trout received a healthy dose of applause and Phillies’ legendary PA announcer Dan Baker even threw in a throaty introduction in each of the three games he played at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s great to hear that, and great to hear the applause,” Trout said. “I love coming back. This is always going to be home to me.”

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has been writing for PhillyVoice since its inception in 2015 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.