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.”

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

After an 0-for-5 day at the plate, Odubel Herrera isn't heading to the bench a day later.

He's leading off. 

Pete Mackanin chose to move the slumping centerfielder atop the lineup card for Friday's series opener against the Reds despite Herrera's striking out in all five plate appearances Thursday.

"I think he's a .290-plus hitter as a leadoff man and I'm not going to sit him," Mackanin said pregame. "He needs to battle his way out. You figure you're the leadoff hitter once a game. After that, it's wide open."

While he hasn't batted leadoff this season, Herrera spent the majority of his time in that spot last season. In 76 games there, he batted .285 with a .359 OBP and .417 slugging percentage. 

The leadoff hitter this season has been Cesar Hernandez, who has a day off with a groin pull he's dealt with the last 10 days. Herrera primarily has been the No. 3 hitter this season and his average is down to .226 with 49 strikeouts to just 11 walks. 

Mackanin hopes the leadoff role can help change Herrera's approach at the plate.

"He was drawing a lot of walks at leadoff, so whether he has that mindset or not, I'm not sure," the manager said. "I just want to get him as many at-bats as possible. We need to get him going. We need him and [Maikel] Franco to get going."

May specifically has been tough on Herrera. He has four hits in his last 36 at-bats and has seven strikeouts in his last two games. He has just seven hits in 22 games this month. 

"I think he's at the point where he's grinding and sometimes when you grind, sometimes there's that feeling where you get lost," Mackanin said. "I've been in situations as a hitter where I've gone up to the plate saying, 'I don't care where it is. I'm going up there and just hacking.' Because you start thinking and that's not working.

"And you look for a pitch and then all of a sudden you say I'm going to take a pitch to get a look at and it's strike one. Then he throws you a nasty slider and that's strike two and your plan is out the window. So I've gone up to the plate myself saying, 'I'm just looking down the middle and swinging. I'm not thinking.'"

When asked, Mackanin said the team had not discussed demoting Herrera or Franco to the minors to take pressure off the duo.

While Herrera tries to hit his way back into a groove, Howie Kendrick is in the midst of working his way back to the majors. He was hit by pitch twice in a rehab appearance Thursday but is back in the lineup Friday in left field. 

Mackanin said Kendrick needed four days minimum in his rehab assignment and will therefore play Friday and Saturday before the team sees how he feels.

The manager also said the team would give more playing time to backup catcher Andrew Knapp. He started consecutive games for the first time on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

"I'm going to try and see him as much as possible and keep him as sharp as possible instead of once a week," Mackanin said. "That's tough to hit, once a week. It's tough to hit twice a week if you don't hit back-to-back. There's no ulterior motive."