Jersey prospect weighs options before draft

Days before Major League Baseball's first-year player draft on Tuesday, Mike Trout is winding down.

The senior outfielder, who completed his high school career for Millville (N.J.) High on Monday afternoon following a 10-8 victory over Oakcrest (Mays Landing), is locked in completely to the next step.

Trout is a surefire bet to be selected on the first day of the draft -- Scouts Inc.'s Keith Law projects him to go to the Brewers at pick No. 26 in the latest mock draft -- but he easily could wait and attend East Carolina.

"He's only beginning to reach his potential," said one East Coast scout. "He has five tools and is rising up the draft boards."

The overriding questions: Who will select the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder? And how much are his services worth?

"I want to ball pro ball; that's been my dream," Trout said. "As for the money, the only reward I'll get is a truck -- probably a Toyota Tacoma."

As for this spring, Trout has attracted major league scouts, cross-checkers and assistant general managers and general managers, well, by the truckload.

Trout's docket was busy again Monday when he worked out for club scouts at Yankee Stadium. "I hit some real bombs; the ball really carries to right field," he said.

Trout and his father, Jeff, then rushed southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike in time to bid farewell to the Millville community, and the fleet-footed center fielder went 3-for-4 (including his 18th homer) with two RBIs versus Oakcrest.

"I look back, and I was a freshman only a couple days ago," Trout said, who concluded a brilliant four-year career with 33 homers. "I enjoyed every minute of it; so did our family."

That's because Trout wasn't alone in his walk to draft day.

Each step has been carefully choreographed by Team Trout. Debbie Trout, his mother, coordinates appointments, meetings with scouts and other requests. His father, a former standout second baseman at the University of Delaware and Minnesota Twins farmhand (fifth-round pick in 1983), hones Mike's swing and lends advice. His siblings, Teal and Tyler, "are on the Internet 24/7 [so] that they know more about me than me," Mike joked.

"I've enjoyed the whole process," Debbie said. "During it all, Mike has handled it well; he's still regular Mike."

"It been a family experience," Jeff said. "We're all involved.

"It's been mind-boggling since last summer when the scouts and college coaches started calling."

Following a sizzling summer at travel team showcases, Team USA and the Area Code Games, Trout's worth was revealed. He eventually asked player agent Craig Landis to represent him.

"Craig saw him play years ago and followed his progress," Jeff Trout said. "He stayed in touch. Craig's a well-respected guy."

The same can be said for Trout, who recently was named New Jersey's Gatorade Player of the Year.

Millville coach Roy Hallenbeck said his star player's makeup may surprise you.

"He's unassuming, quiet," he said. "I've said this many times, but if you entered our locker room and were asked to pick out the first-rounder, you'd have a tough time."

It's that unassuming demeanor that attracts scouts.

"When Mike's stock shot up the charts, he was always accessible to them [scouts]," Hallenbeck said. "He's humble and doesn't big-time people. That's a real compliment.

"He would prefer to talk about a teammate than himself."

Law, who spent nearly five years in the Toronto Blue Jays front office assisting the general manager, likes Trout's plate discipline, fielding range and foot speed.

"He's taken BP with wood [bat] and even done it left-handed for scouts, which absolutely earns a player bonus points when it comes time for teams to set up their draft boards. He's a first-round talent and isn't likely to get out of the top 20 picks," Law said.

Trout's senior-year numbers (in 26 games) are impressive: .531 batting average, 18 home runs, 45 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 1.296 slugging percentage and a .645 on-base percentage. His home run total topped South Jersey's previous single-season mark of 16. He finished with a 5-1 pitching record and a 1.71 ERA.

He set the home run record on Saturday in the Grand Slam Classic (a South Jersey tournament) final, slugging a pair -- along with seven RBIs -- in a 17-7 rout of Bishop Eustace (Pennsauken).

A day later, Trout went freshwater fishing on a local river. "Fishing helps me relax. My buddies and I just catch them and release them," he said.

Did he hook a trout?

"No, just perch, catfish, sunfish and stripers," he added.

Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade national Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.