Mike Trout discusses battling injuries, Angels after Shohei Ohtani's departure & his fascination with Philadelphia Eagles (Exclusive)

Mike Trout Shohei Ohtani
Mike Trout discusses battling injuries, Angels after Shohei Ohtani's departure & his fascination with Philadelphia Eagles

In his first at-bat of the 2024 season, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout homered against Baltimore Orioles ace Corbin Burnes. It was the only hit Burnes allowed in six innings in the Angels’ 11-3, opening-day loss.

That first game could be an indicator of what 2024 may bring for a young Angels’ team that lost reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani this winter but still employs Trout, one of baseball’s most endearing superstars.

Trout, 32 and in his 14th big-league season, all with the Angels, endured the most frustrating season of his career in 2023, playing only 82 games due to a fractured left hamate bone that he suffered fouling off a pitch in July.

It was the third consecutive year in which the 11-time All Star has missed a chunk of the regular season due to injuries.

Yet Trout remains one of the most feared players in the game when he is healthy and on the field.

Mike Trout Interview (Exclusive)

Trout took time recently for a one-on-one interview to discuss his health, this young Angels squad, life without Ohtani as a teammate and new skipper Ron Washington, among other topics.

Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed.

To start, how do you feel physically and mentally?

Mike Trout:

I feel great. The preparation every year has been great. It’s just the last couple years it’s been freak things. But I feel great and am looking forward to really getting it started.

Was last year your most frustrating, given that you were seemingly healthy and then the fractured hamate cut your year in half?

Mike Trout:

I think it was. It was frustrating. I never had a hand injury in my life. I don’t think I had ever broken a bone before. And then that happens. So, it was definitely frustrating and tough mentally.

When you were young, you were as durable as anyone in the game. How much have these recent injuries weighed on you?

Mike Trout:

Looking back, when you’re a young kid, you come in and you just play and play. Once you start getting older, you have to start taking care of your body and just find ways to stay on the field. It has been tough to find that formula. Last year, I felt unbelievable until the freak hand injury. So now it’s focusing more on the post-game recovery, eating better, stuff like that. You’ve got to worry when you hit 30; it’s a little different now.

You’ve always kept yourself in great shape. Is that harder to do in your 30s?

Mike Trout:

I wouldn’t say it’s harder. You’ve just got to prepare more. You’re not just a 21- and 22-year-old kid coming into play and your body feels great all the time. Now, you start feeling the effects of playing.

You hit your 369th homer on your first at-bat in 2024. You have seven years left on your contract. You’d need to average 19 homers a year to reach 500. Does that milestone mean anything to you?

Mike Trout:

I think it would be cool. I’m not thinking about it. I tell a lot of people this, if I go up there and try to hit homers, I get out. So, I just try to trust it, keep my approach. And sometimes they go out of the park.

So, is 19 homers for each of the next seven seasons doable for you?

Mike Trout:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

What about 600? That’s averaging 33 homers per year for seven seasons.

Mike Trout:

(Trout laughs). Man. Put it this way, it was fun watching Albert (get to 600 homers). I enjoyed watching Albert do it and it would be special. There’s a long way to go, obviously. But it would be special.

Given the division, and some key losses personnel-wise, most experts aren’t giving this team a chance to make the playoffs again. What’s your take on this group?

Mike Trout:

The division is always tough every year. Ever since I came into the league, this division is always tough. But we’ve got a bunch of young guys this year, and it’s great they had an opportunity to grow last year and get a taste of it. Now, they are getting their first taste of a full season. They know what to expect and can grow from that.

The main difference with this team, of course, is Ohtani leaving for the Dodgers after six seasons. What was that like, having him as a teammate for that long?

Mike Trout:

It was special, just coming to the ballpark every day and watching what he does best, and to do it from both ways, as a pitcher and on the offensive side. I mean, I know how difficult it is to be up there every day and to prepare yourself to have at-bats against major league pitching. And he was doing that at an MVP level, and then pitching at a Cy Young level. It was pretty remarkable.

How much of a loss it is to not have him on this team and in the lineup with you?

Mike Trout:

It’s obviously a big loss when you lose a guy that talented. It would be a big loss for anybody, any team, to lose somebody like that. It’s a big gap to fill. But, like I said, we have a lot of guys in this clubhouse that are excited to get an opportunity.

The argument can be made that when the two of you were healthy and playing together, you were among the best duos in baseball history. Is that a fair statement?

Mike Trout:

Yeah. I mean, I’ve always, since I was a kid, tried to be the best player on that field night-in and night-out. Obviously, you look back on the six years we played together and there were times that he was on the field, and I wasn’t, and then I was on the field, and he wasn’t. So, when I look back, the years that I got hurt, hurt (that legacy) a little bit.

Is it disappointing to you that you never appeared in the postseason together?

Mike Trout:

It is. We came into every spring and with every game and we wanted to win. Losing sucks. It is what it is. Yeah, disappointing.

What about overall for you, personally? It’s been 10 years now since your lone postseason series in 2014. How much is getting back to the playoffs on your mind?

Mike Trout:

It pushes me. Winning is fun and losing sucks. It’s what drives me every day. I come in every day doing whatever I can to help this ballclub get to that moment.

You’ve now had five managers in seven seasons. That’s a lot of transition. How much of a challenge has that been for you?

Mike Trout:

All the guys, all of the managers that they’ve brought in were really good. I’ve enjoyed every one of them.

What stands out about Ron Washington as a manager?

Mike Trout:

The way he prepares. No disrespect to the previous managers. But as a player, I’d come to the Tempe Diablo (spring training) complex in the morning at like 6:30, 6:45, and I feel like I’m the early one there. And he’s out there on the half-field hitting ground balls to infielders already. He is big on, when things aren’t right, fixing it. He’ll do everything he can to fix it. Just to have that backbone, it’s been big. There wasn’t one day I didn’t pull up and see him on the half-field.

At 71, Washington is an old-school manager. The last three World Series winning managers were 66 or older. Why do you think there’s been such recent success with older skippers?

Mike Trout:

I think if you look at things now, it’s all analytics. You see a lot of analytic-driven teams. A lot of teams that are winning have older managers that have the old-school mentality. If you have a mixture of it, and it doesn’t overpopulate the clubhouse, you know, statistics after statistics, and you just go out there and have that good mixture and just play your game, I think that’s the key. You can’t be out there being a robot, worrying about percentages on this, percentages on that. I think if you take the ability away from the players (and have them) worry about that stuff, it hurts them. So, just to have that mixture, it’s been good. And you obviously have seen that in the last three (World Series winning) managers.

What would constitute a success for you personally in 2024?

Mike Trout:

Playing a full season and obviously making a push to get into the playoffs. I think, personally, it would be to stay healthy. Not to have that big injury. No one wishes that upon anybody. It sucks. It’s frustrating. But I told Wash when he first got the job, “Look, I want to go out there and play every day.’ I think these last few years I’ve been worrying about what’s a good formula, having days off, having this and that. It’s obviously not working. So, like I did when I was a kid, I want to go out there and play. And I told him if something comes up, if something doesn’t feel right, I’ll mention it to him. And if I need a day, I’ll talk to him.

There have been a lot of young players signing extensions in the game recently. You did that in 2014 and again in 2019. What are your thoughts on that movement?

Mike Trout:

What we saw in the offseason, it’s crazy. But I think the trend is starting to change with some of the younger guys like Bobby Witt Jr., in the offseason and Will Smith (recently). I think the trend is to lock players up early and I think it’s great for the game.

Do you think signing extensions makes it easier for players to concentrate on the game?

Mike Trout:

For sure. I think if they lock you up for a long time and you enjoy playing somewhere, it’s a great deal for you. And you’re seeing it a lot with the younger guys.

Last topic, star running back Saquon Barkley signed a deal to leave the New York Giants this NFL offseason to play for your beloved Philadelphia Eagles. What was your reaction?

Mike Trout:

I loved it. Looking back at all the times when we played the Giants, he would run all over us. So, it’s finally good to have him on our side.

No matter where you pick in your upcoming NFL fantasy drafts, are you taking him in the first round if he is available?

Mike Trout:

I’m taking Barkley. Oh yeah.

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Edited by R. Nikhil Parshy