Mike Trout has left big impact on tiny Millville

usa-mike-trout-losangeles-angels-millville.jpg

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.”

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it up to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

A few Phillies thoughts between NFL playoff games:
 
Jerad Eickhoff was in town the other day putting smiles on the faces of some special kids at CSN Philly’s annual Shining Star Awards dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes.
 
Before the event, Eickhoff was a guest on Philly Sports Talk and he was asked about the possibility of being the Phillies' opening day starter April 3 in Cincinnati. The right-hander said all the right things, noting that there were several worthy candidates and that the decision ultimately would be made by manager Pete Mackanin, and he was right on all counts.
 
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who gets the ball on opening day. The goal of every starter is to stay healthy for a full season and if he does that he’ll end up with 33 starts and ample opportunity to pitch himself to the top of the rotation.
 
Still, starting on opening day is a big honor, even if a lot of folks won’t remember who got the ball for the opener much beyond Memorial Day.
 
The 2017 Phillies have two legitimate candidates for opening day starter: Jeremy Hellickson and Eickhoff. 

Hellickson got the nod last year and did nothing to suggest he does not deserve the honor again this year. The veteran right-hander pitched 189 innings over 32 starts and was a pro’s pro from the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
 
But with all due respect to Hellickson, this early vote for the opening day assignment goes to Eickhoff for a number of reasons.
 
First of all, he’s earned it with his performance. He led the starting staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) in 2017. He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure constantly stress to the staff the importance of throwing strikes. Eickhoff responded in 2016. His ratio of 1.92 walks per nine innings was the fourth-best mark among National League starters in 2016.

In addition, he's earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.

All of this leads us to another reason that Eickhoff should get the opening day nod: The Phillies are a building team and Eickhoff, 26 years old and under team control for five more seasons, is going to be around for a while. Hellickson will likely depart for free agency after this season. Ditto Clay Buchholz. Awarding Eickhoff the opening day start would be a show of faith in the pitcher, a message that management believes he can be a rock and a leader in the rotation now and in the future. 
 
And as for the notion that holding Eickhoff back until the second or third game of the season would help keep him away from opposing teams’ top pitchers and get him better matchups and possibly more run support. Well, Eickhoff already knows what it’s like to face top rivals and keep his team in the game. Last year, he matched up against Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and twice against both Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke. Late in the season, he faced NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer twice and lefty stud Chris Sale once. He pitched 19 innings in those three starts and allowed six runs. Pretty solid.
 
It’s certainly not the most important decision that Mackanin & Co. will face between now and April, but when it comes to opening day starter, well, we like Eick.
 
• Spring training is less than a month away, but the Phillies’ offseason roster construction remains in progress. You can pretty much bank on the club adding a bat, likely a left-handed-hitting outfielder, in the coming days.
 
Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders, both free-agent outfielders, remain the most likely targets, with Moss probably the best fit because of his ability to help out at first base.
 
The Phillies have had longstanding interest in Jay Bruce, who is on the Mets’ trading block, but sources say the price for him is two prospects. The rebuilding Phillies are committed to hanging on to their prospects. Moss or Saunders would cost just money, making them better fits on a short-term deal.

• The Phillies will officially open their new developmental academy in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The club has leased four different facilities since ramping up efforts in the DR in 1994. The new facility, built on 45 acres in Boca Chica, is co-owned by the Phillies and Minnesota Twins. The two teams have separate baseball facilities and dormitories for up to 78 players. The clubs share kitchen, dining and field maintenance costs.
 
Read more about the new facility here.
  
• Agreeing at the midpoint and avoiding a hearing is always the goal when a player and his team exchange salary figures during the arbitration process. Cesar Hernandez submitted a figure of $2.8 million and the Phillies came in at $2 million. Shake hands at $2.4 million and move on.
 
• We mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so remarkable. At home in 2016, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .230 and a team on-base percentage of .291. Those marks were the club’s worst in more than a century of official record keeping.
 
• Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci is a strong candidate for the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan winter league. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .323 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 games for the Aragua ballclub.
 
Odubel Herrera was rookie of the year and batting champion in the Venezuelan league two years ago.
 
• And finally, Phillies chairman David Montgomery was among the honorees at the 14th annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation In the Spirit of the Game awards dinner Saturday night in Beverly Hills, California.
 
Montgomery received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Bo Jackson, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a host of legendary scouts were among the other honorees at the event.
 
It was nice to see an organization dedicated to scouting recognize Montgomery, who served as Phillies president from 1997 to 2014. As leader of the Phillies, Montgomery always realized the importance of scouts in building a successful organization, and in his typical style built personal relationships with every member of his club’s scouting staff, right down to the area guys who drive around baseball’s backstreets in search of young talent. Winning the 2008 World Series was the highlight of Montgomery’s time as club president and that team was built on the back of good scouting.
 
So congratulations to one of the classiest and most respected men in the game on a most fitting honor.