Derek Jeter perfected the art of the non-answer in media interviews during his 20-year baseball career with the Yankees, never divulging too much nor treading near anything the slightest bit controversial.
“I did not know,” was a common Jeter staple.
If Angels star centerfielder Mike Trout becomes the face of America’s Pastime now that Jeter is retired – some in baseball circles would say Trout has already assumed that mantle – the slugging, two-time American League MVP already has one big likeness to the Yankees captain: Keep your cards close to the vest.
In his first trip to Citi Field since the 2013 All-Star Game, Trout earned his own press conference in the visiting dugout (not at his locker), and spoke to a large gaggle of reporters for seven and a half minutes, but revealed little beyond his desire to play hard, keep improving and re2pect the game.
“I definitely got to watch replays of it,” Trout said of the Yankee Stadium ceremony last Sunday to retire Jeter’s No. 2. “It’s something special, what (Jeter) did. Just to be in the same conversation with Jeter means a lot. The way I go out there and play, I try to be the best I can be, be a good role model just like him.”
Trout is the squeaky-clean, other-worldly talent for the Angels, a New Jersey-born kid who is considered one of the best – if not the best – in the game today. Nationals star Bryce Harper also draws the same comparisons, but Harper has been vocal during the course of his young career, while Trout, 25, lets his bat and glove do the talking. When asked about Adam Jones being the recipient of racist taunts at Fenway Park this season, or Trout’s Blue Jays counterpart, Kevin Pillar, receiving a two-game suspension this week for making a homophobic taunt toward Braves pitcher Jason Motte, Trout kept his comments short and sweet.
“I’ve never had any (verbally offensive) experiences. I really didn’t see what happened with Pillar. I can’t really comment. For me, I go out there and play. I try to stay out of everything,” Trout said.
Entering Friday’s game against the Mets, Trout was first in several statistical categories in the AL, including total bases (98), on base percentage (.451), slugging percentage (.742) and extra base hits (25). Trout ranked second in the league in home runs (13), behind Yankee Aaron Judge’s 14, fourth in RBI (30) and fourth in average (.341).
But despite Trout’s largess at the plate, Mets manager Terry Collins said Friday that his starter Jacob deGrom was free to pitch to Trout. Good luck with that.
“I have (Friday) night what I think is possibly one of the best pitchers in the game going. I think I’ll let (deGrom) pitch to (Trout), until we don’t need to pitch to him. I’m not a big advocate of putting guys on base behind other guys. I don’t think Jake deGrom is that easy to hit, so even though Mike is playing and doing as well as he is, like I said, we’ve seen Ryan Zimmerman,” Collins said, referring to Harper’s teammate on Washington. “If Mike Trout is hotter than Ryan Zimmerman was two weeks ago, I gotta see it.”
Trout, also the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year, spent more than 10 minutes before batting practice signing autographs behind home plate and posing for photos, and then he stepped into the batting cage and blasted baseballs all over Citi Field, and more than a few over the fence. Is he ready to be MLB’s next ambassador?
“A lot of people ask me that question. I just go out there and play,” Trout said. “If I respect the game, and play the game the right way, all that stuff will fall in place.”