CINCINNATI -- It was Mike Trout's night. It was Mike Trout's All-Star Game. And it's now, officially, Mike Trout's sport.
So just for the record, in case he's wondering, his fellow big leaguers remain eternally grateful that he continues to let them play in it too.
"I just sit there and laugh when he goes out there and does what he does," Detroit Tigers pitcher David Price said late Tuesday night, after watching Trout become the first man in history to win back-to-back All-Star MVP awards -- at age 23 -- in the American League's 6-3 thumping of the National League.
"I'll shoot him a text," Price went on. "And I'll be like, 'Hey, you do know that this is the highest league? There's not a higher league, in case you're bored right now.' But he has to keep playing with us, keep playing with us common guys."
On this night, those "common guys" around him included five MVPs, five Cy Young Award winners, five rookies of the year, one World Series MVP, three League Championship Series MVPs and one All-Star Game MVP. And they all managed to fade into the background of this latest, greatest Mike Trout All-Star show.
"He's just an unbelievable player," the Minnesota Twins' Brian Dozier said. "Good for him, man. He's a joy to watch."
Trout's box-score line might not have looked as impressive as, say, Lorenzo Cain's (2-for-3, with a huge RBI double), or Prince Fielder's (1-for-1, with a sacrifice fly and two RBIs). But here's what the MVP did do, in his own inimitable, aw-shucks way -- with a smile on his face and his engine always running:
Exactly four pitches into the game, Trout flipped Zack Greinke's 94 mph fastball, on the outside corner, into the seats in right field. It was the sixth leadoff home run in All-Star history, not to mention the first run Greinke had given up in more than a month.
"Duh," Price laughed, as he recalled his reaction to the sight of that rocket flying through the night. "What did you expect him to do? I'm surprised he didn't hit a leadoff grand slam with nobody on base, if that's even possible. If that can happen, he'd have been the guy to do it."
Then, four innings later, Trout might have done something even more impressive, in his own subtle way. He found a gear that enabled him to go roaring down the first-base line like Usain Bolt, to beat out what looked like a routine double-play ball -- which led, of course, to a game-changing, two-run inning.
When that ball left the bat, it looked so much like a routine 4-6-3.
"I thought, 'That's a double play,'" New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "You know, when you get jammed like that, as a right-handed hitter, you tend not to get out of the box as quickly. So off the bat, we were like, 'That's the end of that inning.' But instead, it was a big play in that game."
And then, finally, in the seventh inning -- when Trout was, not coincidentally, the only starter left in the game for either team -- he drew a leadoff walk off Francisco Rodriguez that set up yet another two-run rally, which helped put this game away for good after the NL had drawn to within one run a half-inning before.
Then again, the fact that Trout was even still playing at that point should have told us something, in and of itself.
No starter for either team had gotten four plate appearances in an All-Star Game in eight years -- since Jose Reyes did it in 2007. And no AL starter had made it to the plate that many times in more than a decade, since Joe Torre let Ichiro Suzuki, Vladimir Guerrero and Pudge Rodriguez hit four times in the 2004 classic.
But on this night, Trout's manager du jour, Ned Yost, had no interest in taking his best player out of the game before the seventh inning. If you're actually trying to win one of these this-time-it-counts All-Star Games, why the heck would you do something as crazy as tell the best player in the cosmos to go take an early shower?
"He's just special," Yost said. "When you look at Mike, you don't look at a 23-year-old. You look at a guy that is one of the best baseball players on this planet. So he was the one guy that I wanted to leave in the game the longest. He played longer than anybody else because he is such a special talent."
So how special is he? Let's count the ways:
• He's the fifth player in history to win two All-Star MVP awards. None of the other four men to do it -- Willie Mays, Steve Garvey, Gary Carter or Cal Ripken Jr. -- was younger than age 29 when they won MVP trophy No. 2. Trout might have eight of these by age 29.
• After just four All-Star appearances, he's already one of only 10 players who have hit for a cycle in their All-Star careers. But here's what separates Trout from the rest of that esteemed pack: He could have done that even if he'd gotten just one plate appearance in each of those four games. In his first All-Star at-bat in 2012, he singled. In his first AB in 2013, he doubled. In his first trip last year, he tripled. And in this game, he fired that leadoff homer. So how many other players in the history of this sport have whacked three extra-base hits just in the first inning of the All-Star Game? That would be none. Of course.
• Then again, merely getting an extra-base hit in three All-Star Games in a row -- in any inning -- is something you don't see every decade. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, in fact, Trout is the first player to do that in more than a quarter-century -- since Dave Winfield did it in 1986-87-88.
• And in his All-Star career, Trout is now 5-for-10, with a home run, two doubles, a triple, three RBIs and three runs scored. So that means he now owns as many All-Star hits in his lifetime as Mike Schmidt, Mel Ott, David Ortiz or Andre Dawson -- not to mention as many as Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor, Don Mattingly, Craig Biggio and Eddie Murray combined. And have we mentioned in the past 30 seconds this guy is 23 years old?
All right, now here's another entry for the Legend of Mike Trout files: There were strong rumors Tuesday night that he actually called his leadoff home run, by the way. Well, sort of.
"We were just joking around," Dozier said. "And we said, 'Why don't you go ahead and make it 1-0?' And he agreed. He said, 'OK.' Of course, we say that to everyone. But he actually did it. Unbelievable."
But when asked if there was any truth to those rumors, Trout just smiled and pleaded innocent.
"No, no, no," he said. "Albert [Pujols] said something about that. But I don't know anything. I just go up there and hit."
OK, whatever. We'll let Outside the Lines tackle that investigation. But there was no investigation necessary to reveal the quality that really separates Mike Trout from all the other mere mortals in spikes:
"When I go out there," he said Tuesday night, "I play my hardest every day. Doesn't matter what the score is. When I'm in there, I'm playing nine innings hard."
And because that's always his M.O. -- every night of the week, All-Star Game or just another Thursday in May -- he turned what should have been a run-of-the-mill double-play ball into a game-changing fielder's choice. Even in a game that didn't really "matter." And let's just say his teammates noticed.
"I hope young players look at that," Teixeira said. "Whether you're in elementary school or high school, I hope you look at Mike Trout and say that's the way you should play the game, because I want the next generation of ballplayers to all play as hard and as well as he does.
"There are plenty of guys we see," Teixeira said, "who have amazing talent and loaf down to first base. Amazing talent, and they're jogging around the bases and taking two minutes to get around the bases after they hit a home run. But I just like the way that Mike does it."
Well, he's not alone. A simple act of hustle on this night turned into a game-winning rally that made Price the winning pitcher. And Price was so thankful, he announced afterward: "Just give him my win, too."
So let's see. If we're reading Price's scorecard on this game correctly, he had the great Mike Trout down for a leadoff grand slam and the winning pitcher. That seems kind of impossible. But as we're learning every year, come All-Star Game time ... it's not impossible for him. He's not a baseball player. He's a superhero.
"Yeah, sometimes he might look like Clark Kent," Price chuckled. "But more times than not, he's definitely going to look like Superman."