ANAHEIM, Calif. — A Mike Trout-themed backdrop was stationed in front of the main entrance to Angel Stadium on Sunday afternoon, right in front of an electronic banner that marked the occasion with the word “loyalty.” Trout stepped to the podium amid a chorus of “MVP” chants from the 3,000 or so fans who arrived early for an exhibition game to celebrate the 12-year, $426.5 million contract that will make him the pre-eminent member of the Los Angeles Angels for his entire career.
Trout, as graceful an athlete as this game has ever seen, looked rattled.
“Whew!” he exclaimed at one point, attempting to gather himself amid a sea of adoration. “I’m losing it.”
Trout, making his first public comments since agreeing to his monumental extension earlier this week, called this little pocket in Southern California “my home,” which is what made all the difference.
“Spending your whole career with one team I think is pretty cool,” Trout said while sitting at the dais with his wife, Jessica Cox, his agent, Craig Landis, and four prominent members of the Angels — owner Arte Moreno, president John Carpino, general manager Billy Eppler and manager Brad Ausmus.
“That was one thing on my mind, talking to people — if I did leave in two years, maybe looking back I would’ve probably regretted it a little bit, because I love it here.”
Trout secured the largest contract in North American professional sports history, topping recent deals signed by Manny Machado (10 years, $300 million with the San Diego Padres) and Bryce Harper (13 years, $330 million with the Philadelphia Phillies).
The Angels began back-and-forth negotiations with Trout’s agent, Craig Landis, around late February and secured a deal within four weeks.
Trout faced the possibility of waiting to become a free agent after the 2020 season and possibly signing with a team like the Phillies, who reside near his childhood home in Millville, New Jersey, or the New York Yankees, the team he grew up rooting for.
“Obviously, I live in the East Coast — that was a big factor,” Trout said. “You see all the things on social media — ‘Mike’s going to come back home. Mike’s going to do this.’ Obviously I still love the Eagles, I love going back to the East Coast, the Philly area, the Sixers, all the teams over there. But when I got the commitment from Arte and John, I knew the direction they were going.”
Trout is off to what might be the fastest start in baseball history, accumulating more wins above replacement than any player through his age-26 season. He has finished within the top two in American League MVP voting six times and has compiled a .307/.416/.573 slash line, adding 240 home runs and 189 stolen bases.
They aren’t rookies, but these hitters and pitchers are primed to bust out and deliver bigger results in the new season.
The Angels have not won a playoff game in Trout’s seven full seasons, but Trout was encouraged over the direction under Eppler, who has significantly improved the farm system while adding established players who would not cripple the team’s financial flexibility.
At one point during Sunday’s news conference, Moreno turned to Trout and said, “He needs some jewelry.”
Trout smiled and nodded.
“There’s going to be some ups and downs in the 12 years, but the direction was huge for me,” he said. “I’m happy and excited for the direction they’re going.”