Inside the discovery of Mike Trout

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Greg Morhardt was the Los Angeles Angels’ scout assigned to oversee the Northeast corridor a dozen years ago, and on a beautiful, late-summer day, he watched over a flock of high school age ballplayers in New Jersey. When somebody mentioned that the last name of the muscular kid with the football-player build standing out at shortstop was Trout, Morhardt immediately wondered whether he had a connection with the teenager.

More than two decades before, Morhardt had played minor league baseball with a Trout, Jeff Trout. He was fast, Morhardt recalled, and a really good hitter, someone who might have had a little time in the big leagues if he had hung around pro ball a few more years. But Morhardt had been present when Jeff met Debbie Busonick, and Jeff and Debbie married, moved beyond the uncertainty of minor league baseball and returned to Jeff’s hometown in southern New Jersey to raise a family.

That was the last Morhardt had heard of his old teammate. Now Morhardt was at a ballfield tracking this teenager with the last name of Trout — in Jersey. It had to be more than a coincidence, he thought. “Is that Jeff Trout’s kid?” Morhardt asked somebody else at the workout, and he was told, yes, that’s Jeff and Debbie’s son. That’s Mike Trout.6

Morhardt’s reunion with the former teammate he called Trouter would have to wait, however, because Jeff was not hovering over his son that day. Morhardt and Jeff Trout didn’t talk again until another day, another time. Jeff was not at a lot of Mike’s high school workouts and practices, in fact.

Jeff Trout had set all the Millville High School records that Mike would break, he had starred at the University of Delaware, he had played four years in the Minnesota Twins’ farm system, hitting .321 and posting a .406 on-base percentage in 1986, and he coached at Millville High School. But as Mike Trout advanced in baseball and began to draw the attention of Morhardt and other scouts, Jeff Trout made the decision to step back from coaching his nike

Major League Baseball will forever be played by a lot of young men whose fathers have coaxed and nudged them through every swing of every inning of every game. Truth be told, some of the same players have felt smothered by the omnipresence of their fathers, some of them haunted as they tried and sometimes failed to live out the dreams of someone whose love they cherished.

Mike Trout is not one of those players.

When Mike reached the ninth grade and began to create a future in baseball, generating awe in scouts such as Morhardt with his speed, Jeff and Debbie Trout attended his games in lawn chairs, captured video, cheered for Mike and his teammates — and left the instruction and coaching of their son to others, a calculated distance that remains in place today.