Mike Trout takes a vicious swing at a 91-mph fastball and an earsplitting crack echoes through the Tampa Bay Rays' domed stadium. The drive screams off his bat at 112 mph and travels 458 feet, the longest home run this season at Tropicana Field.
Six days later, the Rays are in Anaheim and Trout hits a grounder that shortstop Yunel Escobar fields cleanly. Just about every other player in baseball would be out.
Not Trout. The Angels outfielder blazes to first in 3.85 seconds — nearly a half-second faster than average for a right-handed hitter — and beats the throw.
"His combination of speed and power is incredible," Rays Manager Joe Maddon said. "He's an anomaly, a prodigy."
Two years into his big league career, Trout, 22, may be the best all-around player in baseball. A unanimous choice for American League rookie of the year in 2012, when he was runner-up in most-valuable-player voting, he produces in every facet of the game, hitting well over .300 with home run power, stealing bases and making highlight-reel defensive plays.
Around the Angels, Trout is the star who doesn't act like one.
Around the working-class southern New Jersey town where he was raised, Trout is remembered as a kid so competitive that each morning he raced his two older siblings to the breakfast table. Not so he could brag — just for the satisfaction of being first.
He was called the "Millville Meteor," a nickname still appropriate considering how quickly he has risen to the top of his sport.
In Millville, population 28,000, Trout is known even now as "Mikey," the All-Star ballplayer who lives with his parents in the off-season and dates his high school sweetheart, a fifth-grade teacher. He shares family meals and hangs out with his buddies in his "man cave," a basement room with two couches, a pingpong table, dartboard, bar and a 70-inch flat-screen television.
"Around his friends, he's the same guy he's always been," said his agent, Craig Landis. "He likes to hunt, fish, golf. He'd prefer to do that than to hobnob at some Hollywood event."
Trout's parents, Jeff, 53, and Debbie, 51, are retired teachers. Jeff, who played four years of minor league ball, spent 25 years at Millville High, where he coached football and baseball. Debbie spent 15 years at a preschool.
"Salt-of-the-earth people with solid backgrounds," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said of the Trouts. "Mike has had great mentoring in our clubhouse, but the most important reason he's so grounded is his parents."
Mike has a 24-year-old brother, Tyler, who recently graduated from law school, and a 27-year-old sister, Teal Levick, who is married with two children and runs a business from her family's home. Jeff and Debbie tried to instill in their children the value of hard work, modesty and gratitude.
"My parents taught me to stay humble, don't be too cocky, and that's the way I've looked at it since Little League," Mike said. "Go out there and play hard and don't draw too much attention to yourself with your actions."
Built like an NFL running back at 6 feet 2, 235 pounds, Trout has the All-American looks of a Gil Thorp comic strip character: Blond crew cut, narrow eyes, square jaw and boyish grin.
When the Angels were playing the Yankees in New York recently, Trout and several family members tried to sneak out the side of the team hotel. It didn't work.
Several autograph-seeking young men spotted Trout and, pens and baseballs in hand, pursued his cab for 10 blocks. The stoplights allowed them to keep up until the taxi stopped at a Times Square eatery.
"They were chasing us through the city, knocking on the window of the cab," said Debbie, Mike's mother. "It was crazy."
The men were rewarded when Trout signed after dinner — two hours later.