It may be hard to believe given the greatness we've become accustomed to, but Mike Trout's only been a full-time big leaguer for five years and one day. While his career officially began with a mediocre 40-game cameo in 2011, it was five years ago Friday - April 28, 2012 - that the Los Angeles Angels recalled Trout from Triple-A for good, and a legend was born.
So what's Trout done since that call-up? Oh, he's just won two MVPs and five Silver Sluggers, authored the greatest rookie season - and arguably the greatest single season - ever, posted a career .968 OPS that already ranks 14th all time and is tops among active players, and became just the third player ever to accumulate 50 wins above replacement by age 25. He needs five more years to become officially eligible for the Hall of Fame, but that's a mere formality. The scariest part? His peak years are only starting now.
There's no telling how high his star will rise, but for now let's just look back and marvel at what the "Millville Meteor" has done so far. Here are Mike Trout's five best plays from his first five big-league seasons:
Trout's 30th homer of his legendary rookie season on Sept. 30, 2012, made him the youngest player to ever record a 30-30 season, and the first rookie to net a 30-40 campaign (he finished one stolen base away from a 30-50 season). When his historic debut campaign was over, he had become the first player ever to hit 30 home runs, steal 45 bases, and score 125 runs in a single year.
It's important to appreciate every aspect of Trout's skills, including his baserunning. We all know he steals bases, but his sliding skills are impeccable, as Jose Bautista found out on consecutive plays during a game last season. The second one is the most impressive: Trout appears to be out at home easily but avoids the tag with a feet-first swim slide. Who does this?
Yeah, he can mash. On June 27, 2014, Trout went where very few hitters have gone in Kansas City's pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium, demolishing a Jason Vargas pitch into the park's famous fountains in dead center field, which the Angels broadcasters called "Bo Jackson territory." The homer's distance was the subject of controversy. ESPN's hit tracker called it a 489-foot blast - the longest in Kauffman's history - based on where it would have landed unimpeded, but because it hit the fountain's back wall the Royals officially called it at 445 feet. Trout should be honored by the disputed distance, though, since all the legends, like Ruth and Mantle, need at least one mythical shot attached to their names.
Mike Trout hits grand slams you can't catch, and he takes them away from you, too. Leonys Martin found this out the hard way last year, when Trout stole his salami at the wall with a beautiful leaping grab reminiscent of a young Ken Griffey Jr. patrolling center field in Seattle. How fitting, then, that Trout made this catch at Safeco Field on the very weekend the Mariners were retiring Junior's number.
In his rookie season, Trout gave us perhaps his signature moment, flying through the air in Baltimore to rob J.J. Hardy of a home run with one of the most unbelievable catches you'll ever see. Trout's grab made us rub our eyes too many times to count, and will continue to do so. Don't be shocked when this catch is still at the top of his career highlight reel at the 2037 Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
(Videos courtesy: MLB.com)