Phillies

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.”

Forgotten Phillies opening day starters of the last 30 years

Forgotten Phillies opening day starters of the last 30 years

Steve Carlton, Terry Mulholland, Curt Schilling, Roy Halladay. There are certain eras of Phillies baseball over the last 40 years when you knew who was going to have the honor of being named opening day starter before spring training even started. This year, Aaron Nola was poised to take the ball for his third straight opening-day start. 

Since Carlton’s incredible run of starting 14 out of 15 openers, there have been 15 pitchers tabbed to start the season off for the Phillies but not all were household names. Here’s a look back at some of the pitchers you may have forgotten got the nod in Game 1 of 162.

2005-06: Jon Lieber

Lieber had a couple of pretty good seasons with the Cubs early in the 2000s, was an All-Star in ’01 when he won 20 games and started three straight Opening Days for them. But after having Tommy John surgery, he signed with the Yankees, missed all of ’03 and then bounced back with a solid 2004, good enough for the Phillies to sign him.

He won that '05 opener for the Phillies and had a pretty good campaign, winning 17 games and leading the NL in starts. He pitched another two unremarkable years for the Phils, going 12-17 with a 4.87 ERA.

2001/02: Omar Daal/Robert Person

Lumping these two together because it was a transition time for the Phillies. In the midst of their seventh straight sub-.500 finish, the Phillies traded ace Curt Schilling in July of 2000 to Arizona for four players, one of which was Daal. The lefty ended up losing 19 games in 2000, one game short of becoming the first pitcher in 20 years to lose 20. But that was good enough to earn (?) him the opening day start in 2001, the first with Larry Bowa as manager. Daal had a better year, going 13-7, but did have a 4.46 ERA.

Person also had a very solid season, going 15-7 with a 4.19 ERA. That got him the start in the 2002 opener, but he never found the same success on the mound as he did in ’01. At the plate, however, he had one of the more memorable days for a Phillies pitcher this century in a June game vs. Montreal. He hit a grand slam and a 3-run homer, going 3 for 4 with seven RBI.

2000: Andy Ashby

Ashby had come up in the Phillies system in the late '80s and actually made his MLB debut for the club in 1991. He was drafted by the Rockies in the expansion draft and ended up in San Diego, where he flourished. He was a two-time all-star, started a couple of openers and helped lead the Padres to the NL title in 1998.

When the Phillies traded three prospects for Ashby before 2000, they thought it gave them a legit 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation to go along with Schilling (who missed the beginning of 2000 due to injury). However, that didn’t work out. After going 4-7 with a 5.68 ERA, Ashby was traded during the All-Star break to the Braves for Bruce Chen.

1996: Sid Fernandez

Did you even remember Sid Fernandez was a Phillie? From 1994 through 1999, Schilling started five of six opening days for the Phils. When he started ’96 on the DL, in stepped Fernandez for the opening day honor. “El Sid” had some really good seasons with the vaunted Mets staff of the '80s, making a couple of All-Star games and helping them win a World Series.

Almost a decade later, he signed with the Phillies for the second half of the ’95 season and did well, posting a 3.34 ERA and going 6-1. He wasn’t as effective in ’96, which basically ended his career (he pitched one game for Houston the next season).

1990: Bruce Ruffin

Remembered more for his Chris Berman-given nickname, Bruce “Two Minutes For” Ruffin’s career started with a bang. He went 9-4 with a 2.46 ERA for the Phillies in 1986. But it kind of went downhill from there. Over the next five years with the club, he never finished above .500 and had only one year with an ERA below 4.00. But he got the opening day start in 1990 because someone had to. Partly because…

1989: Floyd Youmans

Maybe the original “new guy” that got the nod for the Phillies, Floyd Youmans had a promising start to his career in Montreal. He started the opener in ’87 at the age of 23, but injuries and a suspension derailed his time there. Before the 1989 season, the Phillies got him in a trade for Kevin Gross. Youmans started only 10 games for the Phillies in what was his final MLB season.

1987-1988: Shane Rawley

Rawley actually had a few good years with the Phils. He made the All-Star team in 1986 and won 17 games with a 3.54 ERA. In ’85, he won 13 with a 3.31. So when it came time to replace Carlton for Opening Day, the torch was passed to Rawley.

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What an opening weekend this would have been for Phillies

What an opening weekend this would have been for Phillies

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone." — A. Bartlett Giamatti

Of all the quotes about baseball I have read, the beginning of Bart Giamatti's essay "The Green Fields of the Mind" is the one that paints a picture (in oil, of course) of my connection to and love of baseball.

In three sentences we are taken from the renewal of spring to lazy summer afternoons and evenings at the ballpark and finally, to the ache of autumn as the game leaves us for the year.

This year, with fairly little warning, the heartbreak came early. Spring fever actually came with a ... real fever.

We had opening weekend on tap. The Phillies visiting the Miami Marlins. We would take the wraps off a revamped Phillies roster and get a feel for our new set of wheels this season.
What do we have? A team to be truly excited about? Not enough horses? Can Bryce Harper pick up where he left off? Will Jake Arrieta and Rhys Hoskins bounce back?

My watch signals game time.

My phone reminds me, too.

Do the watch and the phone know what they're doing to me?

If you've been a baseball fan since you were a kid, on opening weekend there is a sense of "school's out!" even though you've got two months left. What it is, really, is the promise of summer, laid out in 360 feet of basepath and three acres of the lushest Kentucky Bluegrass you've ever smelled.

As with this opening weekend, the weather is unpredictably tantalizing. Thursday gorgeous, Friday the same, Saturday wet, Sunday back in the drink.

All of that would have been OK. The Marlins play in a dome. The games would be played regardless of weather.

Would have been a good weekend to stay inside.

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