The best player in baseball, Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels center fielder, is heading into his sixth MLB season this year — and is only now finally moving his stuff out of his parents’ house.
The 24-year-old is a four-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, 2014 American League MVP — the list goes on.
And until now, he's kept all these his awards piled up at Debbie and Jeff Trout's house in Millville, New Jersey.
Trout's All-Star Game rings are in a locked case on the wall. So are the signed baseballs from other players around the league — Trout sends them home in long tube socks. The Corvette he got when he was named All-Star Game MVP sits in a detached garage, right in front of his hunting gear and off-road truck.
Debbie and Jeff Trout don't mind keeping possession of all this, they told BuzzFeed News. But soon Trout, entering his sixth MLB season, will take it to his brand new home on 300 acres of woods and farm — just minutes away from his parents' place.
Trout fully lived with his parents until two years ago and said he visits all the time. "I just thought it was time I figured it was time to get out of the house, and I always go back to south Jersey," he said. "They took me under their wing and anything i needed they'd be there for me."
"It was just time," said the characteristically reticent outfielder. "I figured it was time to get out of the house."
"It's just where he wants to be," Jeff said. "He's a family guy. He loves his [three-legged] dog. He's close with his mother. He has a great group of friends here he's had since he was a little kid. He's very tight with his brother and sister and he loves his niece and nephew. He grew up fishing and hunting and clamming these woods and these waters."
"His girlfriend lives here. Everyone's here," said Jeff, adding that he works out at a nearby Millville gym with a local trainer. "He's a south Jersey kid and it'll never get out of him."
Trout stands as one of the game’s leading faces of the future. But unlike some of baseball’s other young superstars — embracing newfound superstardom — Trout prefers a low and quiet profile.
"You just don't get more than what you ask for from Mike," his father said.
In conversation, Trout is polite and unreluctant to converse, but true to his father's word, he gives simple, straightforward answers. Trout differs from other athletes of his caliber who learn quickly to give media-friendly interviews.
It might stand that the only way to understand the best player in the game is by hearing from the people who know him best: those who raised him.
The Trouts also acknowledge their son's reputation for being a bit, well, bland off the field. A recent story in ESPN the Magazine mentioned Trout as contrast to the Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, another young outfielder: "Mike Trout is Harper's equal as a player, but he's as publicly charismatic as a plate of sand."
"Some people say, 'Oh, he's so boring,' but he's not," Debbie said. "He has a personality around family."
"Some people say he shouldn't be the face of baseball because he's not controversial enough," Jeff said. "They say he's not showy enough. Maybe they're right. That's their opinion and their right and maybe that's true. But in my view, that's just not who he is."
"If he has to be showy and all that to be the face of baseball, so be it," Debbie said, but "that's just not Mike. He just doesn't like that."
The Trouts had three children and insist they never pushed them into sports unless they were interested. “Our rule was that if we had to force them to get into the jersey, they didn’t have to play,” Debbie said.
But their youngest, Mike, wouldn’t take off his jersey. He took to baseball, football, basketball, and soccer. During double-headers in his Millville Babe Ruth league, Trout often asked his parents to pack his rod so he could fish between games.
"There is a mindset now in which parents try to specialize their kids," Jeff said. "They think, you're gonna play baseball all year long, and you're gonna be a big leaguer' Well, it don't work that way. In our view, we encourage them to play all the sports. You develop different skills, different body parts, different parts of your brain."
"I mean, at some point you do have to make a choice," Debbie said. "I think as kids are growing and developing we've always just said, 'Do what you want.'" We weren't going to make him play year-round baseball. We just weren't."
"There's a thought process that you do this to your kids. And you wonder why these kids are having Tommy John surgery at age 21, 22, when they're throwing 10 months per year," Jeff said.
Scouts and teams began visiting Trout when he was 15. His parents said they remained focused on his education "until the bitter end."
"There was none of this stuff when he was 13 like, 'You're great, Mike. You're gonna get in the big leagues,'" Jeff said. "'Maybe if you continue to work hard and get better, you can get a scholarship to play college baseball and you'll get a free education — wouldn't that be nice?' That's a great goal to have. Not to be a big leaguer."
Trout committed to East Carolina University. Jeff told him that if he wasn't "a first- or second-round pick" he'd be going to college.
"It was first-round only," Debbie recalled sternly. "It was not second round."
Trout was drafted 25th overall by the Los Angeles Angels — the first round — and his career as a baseball player began at 17. His parents had to sign his contract, which includes a $90,000 escrow account for college that he can use up to five years after he retires.
"For how many people make it to the big leagues, we always said, 'He's gotta have something to fall back on,'" said Debbie.
Trout’s parents nearly missed his major league debut.
Trout during his first major league game.
Trout, 19 at the time, got the call from the Angels just after midnight on July 8, 2011. He had just finished an away game with the Arkansas Travelers, the Angels' Double-A affiliate. At 2 a.m., he called Debbie and Jeff, who were asleep in Millville.
"I was screaming bloody murder," Debbie recalled this week. "I just kept shouting, 'He got the call! He got the call!'"
They woke up Mike's older brother, Tyler, so he could buy them plane tickets; the game was in 15 hours. "We were up all night and had to get flights and get packed and we would be arriving at the gate at [Los Angeles International Airport] at 7 o'clock" at night — the same time the Angels were scheduled to take the field.
Trout had been sleepless the night, and arrived in California early in the morning. He was hustled into uniform fittings and interviews with reporters — and then, onto the field.
His parents, though, hit flight delays out of Philadelphia. By the time they landed in Los Angeles, the game was about to start and there was no time to drop off luggage.
"We were sprinting across the parking lot of Angel Stadium with our suitcases," Debbie said.
"We ran up to the will call window. There were no tickets," Jeff said.
In the chaos leading up to his first game with the Angels, Trout forgot to leave tickets for his parents. After showing IDs and pleading — the game was already heading into the seventh inning — the Trouts found their seats.
In the top of the ninth, Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutiérrez hit a long fly ball into deep right center. Trout sprinted for it and managed to nab the out at the wall, ending the half-inning of the 2–2 game.
"Boom. Then 47,000 people were on their feet," Jeff recalled. "Standing ovation."
"And then Mike sees us and then I was really an emotional wreck," Debbie said. The Angels won 3–2.
Today, Trout calls Debbie, who's now retired, before every single game, then texts her to say he’s taking the field.
Jeff jokes that they have to take afternoon naps and drink coffee at 9:30 p.m. to stay up for most of his games, which start at 10 p.m. on the East Coast.
"Some nights we'll sit here and say, 'Oh, god. He's 0 for his last 10!' but when he calls he's just like, 'Hey, Mom, what's up?'" Jeff said. "He doesn't take the game home with him. If he's in a slump, it doesn't weigh on him. He enjoys what he does, it's not a job to him, and he has pure fun doing it."
Correction: Mike Trout moved out of his parents home two years ago, and is only now moving his awards and memorabilia collection out. A previous version of this article, based on interviews with the player and his mother, said Trout had just recently moved out of his parents house.