Mike Trout has left big impact on tiny Millville

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Mike Trout has left big impact on tiny Millville

MILLVILLE, N.J. — Jim Quinn was eating lunch in Denver International Airport when he and a couple from Edina, Minnesota, struck up a conversation.

They asked him, “Where are you from?” Quinn, hardly thinking they’d know his hometown, replied, “Out in Millville, New Jersey.”

“That’s where Mike Trout’s from, right!” the man said in excitement.

And with it, you could practically hear Millville respond in unison: Sure is.

“So Mike put us on the map, no question about it,” Quinn, the former mayor of Millville, said over the weekend. “That’s really cool, you can be sitting at Denver Airport talking with a guy from Minnesota, and he knows where Millville is because of Mike. It’s great.”

Millville, a tight-knit, cozy community in South Jersey, is a place where everyone seems to be connected in someway. On Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, it’ll be reconnected with its beloved superstar when Trout and the Los Angeles Angels come to town to play the Phillies.

“It’s probably the most exciting because it’s home for him,” Trout’s cousin Dana Trout said last week.

Dana teaches at Millville Senior High School, where Trout became a daily attraction for MLB scouts.

“The stands will be filled with everyone from Millville and his family and his friends that love him," she said. "It’s going to be very exciting for us.”

Millville, 45 miles from Philadelphia, got its name from the many mills and factories planned in the 1790s. A 91-year-old diner named Jim’s Lunch sits on the busy corner of Main Street and High Street. It's the place to eat and is known for its one-of-a-kind hamburgers — Trout’s favorite.

The town still shows its age, history and pride, but most of all, it shows Mike Trout. Millville loves its Mikey Trout. So much so that you can’t go through town without seeing his picture hanging up or hearing his name being said.

“As soon as you enter Millville, [the sign] says, ‘Welcome to Millville, Home of Mike Trout,’” Roberto Rivera, a senior middle infielder at Millville Senior High School, said. “Pictures all over, it’s all over the place. Every locker room, every store you walk into, just everything is Mike.”

That’s the immeasurable impact Trout has had on Millville — the place he loves to call home.

The place he held his press conference after winning 2012 AL Rookie of the Year.

The place he would come back to in the offseason to live with his parents.

The place that needs and loves him most.

“Our town, as many towns have, has been struggling,” Quinn said. “The economy’s been tough with losing jobs. We have a beautiful New Jersey motorsports park, a gorgeous theater that we’ve put a lot of money into, so we have some really nice things in town, but Mike is the best that we could ask for — it’s so wonderful. I think people would all agree that Mike Trout is what we are so happy to have coming from Millville.”

No, Trout doesn’t hail from a highly-touted prep school or prestigious program from down south or out west that breads big leaguers.

The 22-year-old prodigy, who has thrice graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, is arguably the best baseball player on the planet and is already drawing comparisons to the game’s all-time greats, happens to be a simple kid who likes to fish, hunt and, of course — hang out in Millville.

“Hometown kid,” said Millville Senior High School baseball coach Roy Hallenbeck, who coached Trout from 2006-09. “He could have gone and played anywhere.”

Instead, Trout blossomed into a major-league prospect (see story) at a public school with a field that’s not quite state of the art — which is fitting, because he probably wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“What’s nice about it is Mike is such a good person,” Quinn said. “You get some of these superstar athletes that have attitudes and aren’t really genuine, but Mike is a genuinely nice guy. You see him signing autographs as he’s walking down the left-field line. It’s wonderful that such a good thing happens to such a good person.”

In tiny Millville, there’s always that connection.

Senior pitcher Kyle Cox’s sister Jessica is Trout’s girlfriend.

“He’s a great person,” Cox said. “Coming into my family, he’s really fit in. He likes to play around and do all that stuff — he’s a kid.

“He’s one of my role models.”

As a youngster, Rivera watched his brother and Trout play on the same team.

“I’ve watched him grow up playing down at Sharp Street since he was like 12, so I just look at him like another person,” Rivera said. “But when I see him on TV and the things he does, it just gives me chills sometimes because we sat in the same classrooms, walked in the same halls and played on the same fields.”

But Trout’s contributions go far beyond his high school baseball team wearing sweet hats, Nike uniforms and playing on a tuned-up field now bearing his name.

He’s inspired all of Millville to, no matter what, dream big.

“It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter where you’re from,” Quinn said, “but if you have the will, the desire, and in Mike’s case, the talent, you can be anything you want to be.”

So it’s no surprise the town coordinated “Millville Night” for Tuesday evening at Citizens Bank Park, with an estimated 6,000 coming to support their own.

“There’s going to be nobody left here,” Hallenbeck joked.

That’s because Millville is Mike Trout. And Mike Trout is Millville.

“Everyone has a sense of pride being from Millville and going to Millville Senior High School and being a Thunderbolt,” Dana Trout said. “We’re just very proud of our town and our school, especially since Mikey gets to represent us, it’s even better.”

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

The Phillies are loading up with right-handed hitters for Tuesday's series opener at U.S. Cellular Field against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon.

Odubel Herrera is out of the lineup and Aaron Altherr takes his place in center field. Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel are in the outfield corners. 

Carlos Ruiz serves as the designated hitter against Rodon, who has huge platoon splits. Righties have hit .305/.365/.484 against Rodon; lefties have hit .220/.268/.286.

Rodon has a changeup to stave off right-handed hitters, but he's used it only eight percent of the time this season. He's thrown his 94 mph fastball, sinker or slider with 92 percent frequency (see game notes).

Emmanuel Burriss gets a start at second base.

Ryan Howard is out of the lineup. U.S. Cellular Field is the only active stadium in which he's never played. The Phillies haven't been there since 2004.

1. Peter Bourjos, RF
2. Aaron Altherr, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Carlos Ruiz, DH
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
9. Emmanuel Burriss, 2B

Suspended Phillies pitcher Alec Asher to begin rehab assignment

Suspended Phillies pitcher Alec Asher to begin rehab assignment

Phillies right-handed starting pitcher Alec Asher, who was suspended 80 games in late May for PEDs, will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday in the Gulf Coast League.

Asher, 24, was 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in four starts with Triple A Lehigh Valley before the ban was handed down.

The Phillies will likely stretch him back out and get a look at him again in September. They've dealt with various injuries to starting pitchers, including Aaron Nola (elbow) and Zach Eflin (knees, foot). Plus, there's the possibility Vince Velasquez is shut down at some point in September. He is five innings shy of matching his career high. That could open up a spot in the rotation for Asher.

Asher debuted with the Phils last Aug. 30 after being acquired from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade. He went 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA in seven starts last season but pitched well in the minors early this year thanks to the addition of a two-seam fastball.

Phillies-White Sox 5 things: First trip to Chicago's South Side since 2004

Phillies-White Sox 5 things: First trip to Chicago's South Side since 2004

Phillies (58-67) at White Sox (59-64)
8:10 p.m. on CSN

After going 2-4 on a six-game homestand against the Dodgers and Cardinals, the Phillies visit the White Sox for a brief two-game series. Rarely does interleague play take the Phils to the South Side of Chicago. 

How rarely?

1. The last time ...
The last time the Phillies were in Chicago to take on the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field was 2004. 

The series was so long ago that Ryan Howard hadn't yet made his major-league debut. Chase Utley was still a part-time player. Carlos Ruiz was wrapping up his first full season at Double A.

It was so long ago that Ricky Ledee, Tomas Perez and Doug Glanville were in the Phillies' lineup, and Frank Thomas was the White Sox DH. 

Since interleague play began in 1997, the only other park the Phillies have visited as sparingly as U.S. Cellular Field is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The Phils are 1-2 at both AL Central fields. 

At the beginning of the season it looked like this would be another reunion for the Phils and Jimmy Rollins, but the shortstop was designated for assignment by the White Sox after hitting .221 through 41 games.

2. Thompson's turn
Jake Thompson makes his fourth big-league start after going 1-2 with a 8.79 ERA in his first three. 

It's been a true struggle so far for Thompson, who has allowed 14 runs in 14⅓ innings on 14 hits and nine walks. He's walked multiple batters each game, and so far just 57.5 percent of his pitches have been strikes. 

Thompson keeps falling behind hitters with men on base, which is a recipe for disaster. It just seems like he's not finishing pitches out of the stretch. Or maybe he's tried too hard to evade solid contact and has nibbled instead. Whatever the case, it hasn't worked and Thompson will need to fix it to figure out what kind of pitcher he needs to be in the majors. 

Thompson had a 1.21 ERA in his final 11 starts at Triple A. The talent is there. The execution just hasn't been. A lot of times, young pitchers come up and struggle before figuring it out. The early successes of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and even Zach Eflin (after his first start) may cause you to forget that.

3. The book on Rodon
The Phillies for the first time face 23-year-old White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon, who was drafted third overall in 2014, four picks ahead of Nola.

Rodon is one of the only players in that entire draft who made it to the majors faster than Nola. He came up last season and went 9-6 with a 3.75 ERA for the White Sox, striking out 139 batters in 139⅓ innings but walking 71. 

This season, Rodon is 3-8 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 20 starts. It's been a rocky season, but he's been much better of late. Rodon missed almost all of July with a sprained wrist he suffered falling down the dugout steps. He's returned to pitch well in August, giving up four earned runs in 18 innings.

Rodon's control has improved significantly this season — he's walked 3.0 batters per nine innings after walking 4.6 as a rookie.

Rodon is a four-pitch pitcher with a four-seam fastball and sinker that average 94 mph, a slider at 87 and a changeup at 84. He throws the changeup just eight percent of the time.

Right-handed hitters have pounded Rodon this season, hitting .305/.365/.484. Lefties have hit just .220/.268/.286. Expect to see Tommy Joseph at first base and perhaps Tyler Goeddel in the outfield.

4. Scouting the Sox
The White Sox got off to a fast start this season, going 23-10 through May 9. They're 18 games under .500 since.

That early-season surge was built on timely offense and lights-out work from the bullpen. It probably inflated expectations for what is really just an average American League team.

Leadoff man Adam Eaton and veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera have had solid years for the Sox. Eaton has hit .276 with a .357 OBP and 37 extra-base hits. Cabrera has hit .295 with a .778 OPS.

The White Sox needed and still need more out of Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, though. Abreu is hitting a respectable .283/.338/.447 but has just 16 home runs. And that's with Abreu heating up this month, hitting .361 with five homers. The big Cuban slugger has declined in each of his three seasons in the majors, his OPS dropping from .964 to .849 to .785. He hit 36 homers as a rookie and 30 last season.

Frazier, per usual, has hit for power with 31 homers and 76 RBIs. But he's hitting just .212 with a .295 on-base percentage, and those 31 homers account for one-third of his hits. He's also striking out a lot, on pace for 160.

The White Sox are too top-heavy a team. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are a solid one-two punch atop the rotation. On paper, Abreu and Frazier should be a productive middle-of-the-order pairing. Eaton and Cabrera are adequate table-setters. And high-priced closer David Robertson still has great stuff. But the formula just hasn't led to wins in 2016.

5. This and that
• This is the only week the rest of the season the Phillies have two off days (Monday and Thursday).

• The Phils face the White Sox in another two-game series Sept. 20-21 at Citizens Bank Park.

• The Phillies have the fifth-best interleague record in the NL this season at 8-8. 

• The Phils are 14-14 against left-handed starting pitchers.