Mike Trout likes to sleep.
A few years ago, when the 22-year-old Los Angeles Angels outfielder was beginning his pro career, getting enough rest wasn’t too difficult. Now that he’s arguably the best player in baseball it’s not quite as simple.
“It hasn’t been too bad for me as a guy who likes to have a lot of time by myself and be able to sleep and not have to wake up early,” Trout explains in the visitors’ dugout at Rogers Centre.
Not only does Trout prepare to play 162 games in 180 days, he deals with considerable national media attention as one of MLB’s premier players and a welcome foil to disgraced stars such as Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun.
Trout, a two-time all-star who won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2012, also has high-profile endorsement deals for companies including Nike, BODYARMOR SuperDrink and Subway. That doesn’t leave room for much down time.
“A day for me is come home from the park, go to sleep, wake up, go to the field every day,” he tells sportsnet.ca. “A big thing for me throughout the year would be to get a lot of rest, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Sometimes that means telling the people around him that he’s unavailable, that he needs rest more than another interview or public appearance.
“There are sacrifices you have to make, but it’s more like once or twice a month. It’s not like it’s every day,” he says.
The Millville, N.J., native doesn’t mind politely declining requests for his time when necessary.
“I usually answer them and just tell them the truth,” he says. “I just tell them you don’t have the time and say you’ll try another day.”
It hasn’t taken long for Trout to rise to prominence. Drafted 25th overall by the Angels in 2009, he dominated the minor leagues in 2010, played briefly at the MLB level in 2011, and established himself as one of the game's elite players in 2012. Following a spirited summer-long debate, he earned first-place MVP votes last year -- a season in which Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown.
Now barely one month removed from his 22nd birthday, Trout leads the American League in runs (101), hits (180), walks (93) and wins above replacement (9.9, via FanGraphs). He will again appear near the top of MVP ballots this year, and he’s more prepared than before for the attention he’s sure to receive.
“It’s definitely a lot different now, with all of the debates and everything,” he says. “It’s not too crazy. The majority of stuff is at the field. They come to the field and talk to you, so that’s not too bad.”
It doesn’t necessarily end after the season. Rather, media requests and endorsement opportunities keep streaming in, and the demands on Trout’s time last winter were “sometimes insane.”
“The off-season’s definitely a time to sit back and get your mind off of baseball a little bit,” he says.
Media members aren’t the only ones who check in on Trout. Rival agents love the idea of adding Trout to their client list and they have tried to pry him away from Craig Landis of LSW Baseball.
“It was like that in the minor leagues, but I’m happy with my agent,” Trout says.
Trout won’t be arbitration-eligible until after the 2014 season, but he’s already a candidate for a record-setting contract extension. The solicitations from agents may well continue.
The interest in Trout doesn't come as a surprise. His first two seasons compare favourably to the debuts of Hall of Fame players such as Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, Al Kaline and Mickey Mantle.
Even as the on-field accomplishments pile up, Trout will continue seeking downtime, elusive though it may be.
“It’s just a grind the whole year and valuable time to yourself is key,” he says. “You don’t want to overrun your schedule and not be able to get your rest.”