Demand for Trout off the field a balancing act

Demand for Trout off the field a balancing act

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- In 33 years with the Angels, 29 of which have been spent in the public-relations department, Tim Mead has never witnessed anything like the rush of public attention and outside demands that now engulf 21-year-old outfielder Mike Trout.

Reggie Jackson was a focal point in the spring of 1982, after coming over from the Yankees, but it died down quickly. Wally Joyner's '86 rookie season inspired a sensation called "Wally World," but it mostly stayed local. And though Tim Salmon was raved about, the interest level remained moderate throughout his career.

Nothing -- not even the arrivals of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in back-to-back Decembers -- can compare to what has surrounded Trout throughout his rookie season and into his sophomore campaign.

"Mike's unique," said Mead, entering his 16th season as vice president of communications. "I think it was just the anticipation in advance, then the performance, and then really, he's mature beyond his years. But so much so that I think we all still have to remember that he's 21 years old."

That's the delicate balancing act taken on by the Angels' PR staff -- Mead and his assistants, Eric Kay and Adam Chodzko -- Trout's agent, Craig Landis, and his retired parents, Jeff and Debbie, all of whom play a big part in divvying up all the demands for Trout's time.

Together, they have a really tough job, given the combination of Trout's age, his importance to a World Series-contending team and, well, the magnitude of it all.

"There's only one of Mike," Debbie Trout said during the offseason, "and there's all these people that just want one little piece of him."

 
Cover man
A list of the major publications Mike Trout has appeared in on the cover.
Publication Date
USA Today Sports Weekly June 6-12, 2012
Sports Illustrated Aug. 27, 2012
ESPN Oct. 1, 2012
USA Today Sports Weekly Nov. 7-13, 2012
Sporting News Baseball February 2013
USA Today Sports Baseball 2013 February 2013
USA Today Sports Fantasy Baseball 2013 February 2013
Baseball America, Fantasy Guide February 2013
Men's Health March 2013
ESPN March 4, 2013

 

Count Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, Men's Health and Eastbay among them. He's graced all their covers, in addition to eight fantasy baseball-related publications, and will make up the centerfold spread of GQ's April issue.

Then there's Nike, ESPN's Baseball Tonight, Major League Baseball and BodyArmor SuperDrink, companies that have had Trout on the field and in full uniform at Tempe Diablo Stadium this spring, standing in the batter's box, simulating a robbed home run and peering in from the dugout for their cameras.

Asked what advice he'd give Trout heading into Year 2, coming off unanimous Rookie of the Year honors and a near-MVP, Pujols said: "He needs to know to say 'no' sometimes to people, because I know everybody is going to want a piece of him."

"You feel bad," Jeff Trout said, "but you just have to say 'no,' or he wouldn't have any time."

The fame brings a lot of good, of course. Endorsement deals with BodyArmor, J&J Snack Foods, Nike and Subway -- which put him in its Super Bowl ad -- have netted Trout an estimated endorsement portfolio of about $1.5 million in 2013.

But now, the pressure has multiplied and everything Trout does is a story, like the 10 pounds he added in the offseason or the $510,000 the Angels decided to pay him for 2013 -- heck, even a picture of the fish he reeled in during a family trip to Key West, Fla., made SportsCenter.

Fans flood his parents' voicemail and mailbox with phone calls and letters; they beg for his autograph as soon as he steps outside the clubhouse doors; and in the bathroom of Chase Field on Saturday night, where he attended a World Baseball Classic game along with Vernon Wells, they hounded him for photos.

"I think he's had to deal with a lot -- a lot more than most other 21-year-olds that have ever played this game," said Wells, who has seemingly become somewhat of a mentor to Trout now that Torii Hunter is gone.

"He's kind of living and learning as he goes through this. Usually, it takes a little while for guys to get the attention that he's gotten, so he's kind of been thrown into the fire. But he's handled it really well. I think it starts with his parents and his upbringing and building that base to be able to deal with all the things he has to deal with now."

On a team with Pujols, Hamilton and Jered Weaver, Trout is by far the most popular figure. For proof, look no further than the Angels' promotional schedule, where four of the seven player-related giveaways this season -- a blanket, a bobblehead, a pint glass and a kid-sized alternate jersey -- will be Trout-related.

Mead said the frequency of media requests for the Angels' leadoff hitter is "too many to be handled," and he doesn't even field all of them. Many go through his parents, who have learned all this on the fly.

"They're two very outstanding people," Mead said. "I don't think a lot of things could be accomplished the way they have with Mike's calendar without the input and guidance of Jeff and Debbie Trout."

As Jeff said, "There's no book on this." The Angels filter the requests as best as they can. They communicate extensively with Trout's parents and agent, make sure Trout knows it's OK to decline every once in a while, schedule most of his commercial and photo shoots for Spring Training and make sure his off-days are clear.

Trout still appears jittery on camera, but some of that, Mead said, is "because Mike is not a self-promoting type of individual."

For the most part, he's handled this about as well as a 21-year-old can.

"I don't mind it," Trout said of all the attention. "It's pretty cool, growing up, watching all the athletes that you watch on TV and commercials, going here, doing stuff for the community. It means a lot to me.

"People have been great to me. It hasn't been too crazy yet. I'm having fun with it. You can only do this one time."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.