Mike Trout may have the best seat in the house.
The superstar outfielder is, unfortunately, still nursing a calf injury that will keep him out until after the All-Star Break. But while Trout has been sidelined, teammate Shohei Ohtani has been stealing the show, something typically reserved for Trout — and doing things that baseball hasn’t seen in, well, ever.
Over the last month and a half that Trout has been out, though, he’s gotten to see the dominance and history-making performance of Ohtani firsthand — and he’s gotten to avoid a little bit of the spotlight.
Sporting News caught up with the Angels outfielder on Tuesday, hitting on a few key baseball topics including Ohtani, MLB’s crackdown on sticky stuff and how he feels about the current state of the Angels. (And what he listens to in the gym.)
(Editor’s note: Angels outfielder Mike Trout interviewed with SN in conjunction with BodyArmor sports drink. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Sporting News (SN): Shohei Ohtani has been otherworldly — Everybody sees that he’s unbelievable. But the majority of us watching aren’t professional baseball players, and even fewer are baseball players of your caliber. What’s something you’ve seen Ohtani do that nobody else notices on a day-in-day-out basis?
Mike Trout (MT): Obviously, hitting is so — hitting is hard. Laughs. To do it over a period of time like he’s doing — I’ve seen flashes of him when he first came up, everybody knew that he was a superstar over in Japan. Just the way he carried himself when he first got here I knew he was going to be legit. The mental side of it is just so impressive to me. People don’t see it. Hitting is so hard and you’re gonna fail a majority of the time, and to see the way he handles himself, he doesn’t carry one at-bat into the other. He turns the page quick — and this is just the hitting side.
To be able to do that, and then go through eight innings, eight shutout innings and throw 100 pitches and play the next day. There’s so much on his plate and the way he’s handled it is unbelievable.
I think people are taking it for granted. He’s going out there every single day, pitching every five days, playing every day, pitching and hitting on the days he pitches, people seeing it are going, “Ohtani is great” but what he goes through on a daily basis, mentally, and to be able to handle that. It’s just truly amazing.
I think any kid playing baseball, the way they can look at how Ohtani is handling everything — it’s truly remarkable. If you get on yourself hitting, then you know you got to throw a pitch too, you’re gonna fail. You never see him angry. He’s always smiling. I’m so happy the way the year has been for him, you know, he puts in all the hard work. He’s such a good kid. Just the work he puts in — it’s just truly remarkable.
Obviously people don’t see that. The numbers he’s putting up and the pitching stats, but the biggest thing is how he handles himself off the field, in the dugout in the clubhouse, in the weight room, is truly incredible. To be able to stay mentally strong through everything. You know that’s just pretty, pretty crazy.
SN: When he hits a home run, the sound is just different.
MT: Oh, yeah. Everything’s different about him. For sure.
SN: One of the bigger storylines over the last month or so has been how Major League Baseball is handling pitchers with all the sticky stuff. What’s your opinion on how baseball has handled it?
MT: Obviously, you’re seeing offensive numbers going up a little bit. I think it all comes down to just playing on an even, level playing field. I think all the pitchers agree, it was getting out of hand a little bit. Obviously, sunscreen and rosin was a big thing. I didn’t even know about Spider Tack until this year, to be honest.
I tell people this all the time: Guys that throw, just for instance, a guy who throws 90 with low spin on a fastball is a lot easier to hit than the guy throwing 90 with high spin. There’s just something different.
Guys without sticky stuff, I think that’s a positive for guys that have high spin rates. You got guys who have high spin rates no matter what, if they use sticky stuff or not. I think taking it out of the game, it was good — I think it needed it. Obviously a lot of people have different arguments about it, I think It all comes down to, like I said, just having an even playing field and you go from there.
SN: It’s something I’ve thought a lot about, when it comes to the equivalent of a hitter: A hitter doesn’t really have that equivalent to get an advantage like that. Maybe you’re talking about a corked bat or something of that nature. But there’s nothing that a hitter can really do when you see these guys throwing harder, nastier than they ever have, and now using the sticky stuff, too.
MT: I didn’t really think anything of it. I think it all came down to, now you got all the TrackMan stuff and the spin rates are up. And like I said when people said something about Spider Tack, I had no idea. I had to go out and research about it.
There’s two sides to it: If you’re going out there — and obviously Spider Tack’s a little crazy — but if you’re just using stuff for a grip, to locate the ball, to have more control over it, that’s one thing.
But if you’re using it to bump up your RPMs purposely, that’s where the line has to be drawn. Now, like I said, just leveling the playing field, and it just got out of hand. I couldn’t really tell you the difference, but knowing that the spin rates are down a little bit, maybe you could see a difference, but I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you.
SN: When you hit the way you do, Mike, I don’t really think it matters if they’re going up there with a with a vat of Spider Tack, right?
SN: The Angels haven’t really had the postseason success since you’ve been with the team, and that’s been hanging over your career just a little bit. Obviously it’s a team sport, but how much does that weigh on you personally as a player?
MT: All of it comes down to playoffs and getting into the playoffs. I think the staff we have now and the guys upstairs — we’ve had some great GMs in the past, big fan of Billy [Eppler], obviously. But Perry (Minasian) and his guys up in the front office, they work and they have a plan and they know the game well, and I trust them. We have conversations mostly every day about how we can make this team better and how we can get better as a unit, from top to bottom, and I think that’s huge. I think being on the same page — it’s all going to be worth it when that day comes, because the time you put in, create that workspace, to create that winning environment.
Everybody knows Joe [Maddon], he’s got that winning, winning mindset and keeps it loose in the clubhouse, and I think that’s key.
SN: I’m a Jersey guy, you’re a Jersey Guy, I call it pork roll. Is it pork roll or Taylor ham?
MT: Ah, pork roll.
SN: When was the last time you had pork roll?
MT: Laughs. Couldn’t tell you.
SN: Three rapid fire questions next: First, you’re in the gym, you’re getting pumped, sweaty, lift on, what’s your go-to song or artist?
MT: Go-to song or artist. I would have to say … Jeezy.
SN: I like it. I’m not sure I expected that from you, but I like it.
MT: Yeah, I’m a big country guy. But if I’m in the gym, I wanna get fired up, it’s gotta be Jeezy.
SN: Pizza or tacos?
SN: New York or Chicago style?
MT: Gotta go New York, gotta stay out on the East Coast.
SN: I hope Yankee fans don’t lose their stuff hearing “New York style” from you, but we’ll see.
SN: A rhino and a hippo get into a fight. Who wins?
MT: I’m going rhino. Yeah.
SN: What can you tell me about the partnership with BodyArmor?
MT: Yeah, I’ve been been partnered with them for a while now. Their growth since I first partnered with them, the athletes they bring in, the upgraded sports drinks every year, has the new flavors. Every year they’re trying to improve their sports drinks and I’m just happy to be on board. I’ve been on board for a lot of years now, throughout my whole career, probably so far. And just looking forward to big things ahead and eventually be the No. 1 sports drink in the world.
SN: What about BodyArmor sets them apart from other popular sports drinks?
MT: Obviously, there’s a bunch of sports drinks out there. The biggest competitor’s Gatorade but they’re, they’re way behind us. For me: No artificial sweeteners, high potassium, low sodium is big. Funny story: My dad went to a store, this was back before I was in the Show. He said, “Look, check this sports drink out. It’s a new drink. I think it tastes pretty great, pretty good.”
I kind of never looked back from there, got a contact and the partnership’s been growing ever since. You can see every year, the top athletes are partnered with us because they know how great the sports drink is. Just looking forward to the growth each year ane being the No. 1 sports drink in the world.