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Mike Trout’s hometown celebrates rare chance to see him play

The salvo usually began around 9 a.m. on Saturdays. Click! rattle! Rattle! Tim Shannon would be looking out the window of his home on Morias Avenue in Millville, NJ, and sure enough, young Mike Trout, in full Little League uniform, would be throwing up rocks and hitting them with a wiffle ball bat from the next house door .

“He had a 4pm game and got up on Saturday morning to knock down gray driveway stones, throw them over the trees and into my yard and knock them off my house,” said Shannon, now 65. “I had to whistle at him, curse at him. “Yo, Mikey, stop it dude! You’re going to break my windows!’ ”

Denise Arrigo is a former Millville High School teacher who, then a sophomore, sat right behind then-senior Jessica Tara Cox in her Spanish class, a pairing that sparked the relationship that led to a prom, wedding, in 2007 2017 and a birth of 2020 led a son. She also had trout in a study hall of the last period.

“It was the end of the day and the kids are doing everything in the classroom but studying, and I remember he was always talking about Derek Jeter being his hero,” said Arrigo, now 69. “And then on his first all -Star game [in 2012], I saw a picture of him in the newspaper standing next to Derek Jeter. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.”

Shannon and Arrigo, like so many lifelong residents of this working-class South Jersey town of 28,000, watched Trout grow from mischievous Little Leaguer to Millville High Star, first-round Angels champion, three-time American League Most Valuable Player, nine-time All-Star and surefire Hall of Famers.

That a “kid from the ‘Ville’,” as Shannon Trout calls it, was able to achieve so much by his 30th birthday while displaying the humility, work ethic and determination the area is known for continues to lift a city’s spirits , which does In the early 1990s, the last of the glass, rubber, and heavy machinery factories that boosted the local economy for decades closed.

“Millville has been through some tough times,” said Shannon, who runs a family funeral home and was Millville’s mayor from 2009 to 2013. “You look at the industries that have been shut down, different things that the city has been through, what we’ve had to compete against…

“When you have someone like Mike, people can be proud. Her chest is a little pumped. You walk a little straighter. They have a little jump to their crotch. There is this excitement.”

That excitement and pride will be on full display this weekend as several thousand Millville and Cumberland County residents make the 45-minute drive north on Route 55, cross the Walt Whitman Bridge and roll into Citizens Bank Park, to experience the second series of Trout in Philadelphia and the first eight years.

The Angels were set to play the Phillies there in 2020 before most of that season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think half the city is going to Philadelphia,” Arrigo said. “We are all happy to see Mike.”

The city is celebrating “Millville Pride Night” during the Friday night series opener, and there should be plenty of blue-and-orange Millville High No. Give 1 Trout jerseys throughout the park. But it’ll be hard to keep up with the “big event” buzz from Trout’s first foray into Philly in 2014.

Trout was then a rising 22-year-old star, in his third full big league season, just five years away from playing in the Cape Atlantic League, and still living in his parents’ basement during the offseason.

The Angels played two games in this mid-May streak, on a Tuesday night and a Wednesday afternoon. Around 6,000 to 7,000 residents of Millville and Cumberland County attended the series opener, Millville Night.

Angels' Mike Trout in action during an interleague game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Angels’ Mike Trout in action during an interleague game against the Philadelphia Phillies May 14, 2014 in Philadelphia.

(Associated Press)

A local bus company used most of its fleet – seven charter buses and eight school buses – to transport fans to the game. There were tailgate parties and a pregame party at a sports bar in the stadium. The Millville High Band and Choir performed the national anthem. The mayor kicked out the first pitch.

As Trout was introduced before his first at-bat, a sold-out crowd of 41,959 in a city known for its hostility toward opponents rose in unison and began cheering wildly for the Angels center fielder, an ovation that lasted 30 lasted seconds.

“I can’t tell you with 100 percent certainty,” said Dan Baker, who is in his 50th year as a Phillies spokesman, “but that was perhaps the biggest, most sustained round of applause I’ve ever heard for an opposing player here. “

Shannon can’t remember what Trout did that night (he went one for five with a strikeout in a 4-3 Angels win), but he’ll always remember that ovation.

The fans cheer as Angels' Mike Trout approaches the plate for his first shot.

Fans cheer as Angels’ Mike Trout approaches the plate for his first at-bat in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies May 13, 2014 in Philadelphia

(Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press)

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m going bald, but every little hair on my head stood up,” he said. “It just gave you goosebumps.”

Trout, a Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder who also grew up with the Phillies, has warm memories of the homecoming.

“It’s been a great experience in 2014 and it’s going to be special to come back to Philly – I’m looking forward to it,” Trout said Wednesday. “When the schedule came out, those were the three games I circled. I like to come back and see everyone.”

Justin Shephard holds up a sign for Angels' Mike Trout before the start of a game.

Justin Shephard, 9, of Deptford, NJ, holds up a sign for Angels’ Mike Trout before the start of a game with the Philadelphia Phillies May 13, 2014 in Philadelphia.

(Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press)

The Millville contingent should be strong this weekend but a little more spread out. John Sheppard, who owns the local bus company, said he will only send a school bus to the Friday night game and a tour bus to the Saturday night game. The school band is not performing.

“The excitement and the excitement leading up to the [2014] Game…that’s all people were talking about,” Shannon said. “There won’t be as much hustle and bustle this time, but I guarantee you there will be just as many people as there was the first time.”

Shannon plans to attend Friday night’s game with a group of friends and Saturday’s game with his family after his daughter secured six tickets from the midfield stand as soon as they became available in early January.

“We have second-row seats,” he said, “so my kids and grandkids can be close to Mike.”

Jim Quinn, a former Millville mayor and county commissioner who runs a local television station, rented the 90-seat Bill Giles suite for $200 a ticket for Saturday night’s game.

“The Phillies said I had to sell 40 tickets to get the suite and I sold them in three days,” Quinn said. “They offered another 20 places and I sold them. Then they said I could go to 75 if I wanted to and I sold all those tickets [last weekend]. I probably could have sold out the 90 tickets, but the suite is getting a little cramped.”

Trout has regained his MVP form after sitting out most of 2021 with a calf strain and hitting .302 with a 1.038 percentage on base plus slugging, 13 homers and 28 RBIs participating in Thursday’s doubleheader with the Yankees.

He was considered the best player in baseball for the past decade, at least until teammate Shohei Ohtani unleashed his full arsenal of two-way skills last season, and he’d likely be inducted into the Hall of Fame if he did tomorrow would retire.

“It’s funny because I remember when Mike started out people said he could be the next Mickey Mantle, the next Willie Mays,” Quinn said. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure he can.’ And he’s actually better. He’s one of the best players of all time and he’s an amazing person too. Everyone is just thrilled.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2022-06-02/mike-trout-angels-phillies Mike Trout’s hometown celebrates rare chance to see him play

Emma Bowman

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