One thing is for certain when you're working for the best Angels site in the business: every now and then, there are some cool perks to be had, and perhaps no Angels-related perk is greater than when they involve Mike Trout. I was already lucky enough to do a phone interview with Trout earlier in the season, but a couple weeks ago, I got an email from Nike inviting me to what would be one of the coolest experiences of my life. Literally.
As you may know, last year Mike Trout unveiled his first shoe for Nike, the Lunar Vapor, and it was quite the big deal. The reason this was huge for both him and the brand was that until the Lunar Vapor, Nike hadn't done a shoe with an MLB player since Ken Griffey Jr. When they go baseball, they go BIG. The Lunar Vapor was a success, but they still went back to the drawing board a bit, with the help of Mike Trout himself, and when it came time to unveil the next phase in Nike Baseball's powerful arsenal, they made sure that Halos Heaven was there to witness.
Everything got kicked off in the morning at a nondescript art gallery in Costa Mesa. I was shuttled in with fellow media members, and we arrived to a space decked out in Nike regalia, and various colors and styles of Mike's new Lunar Trout 2 on display for all to marvel at. The shoes didn't disappoint, and looked just as sleek and muscular as their namesake.
Once we got all settled in, we were treated to a presentation from both MLB Network's(and former player) Eric Byrnes as well as John Brenkus, the creator of the popular Sports Science show. The main gist of both of these presentations was one that we're quite familiar with already: Mike Trout is an amazing baseball player. But beyond that, they hammered home one word that I think couldn't be more appropriate: The Blueprint. If you were building a baseball player from scratch, he's the guy you're modeling after; freakish speed, insane strength and power and high level baseball acumen, all in one nice package. Nike wants the world to know who the Big Dog of MLB is, and they weren't getting any disagreement from me. Then the time came for the big reveal, and the man of the hour made his way onto the stage, sporting his sick new Lunar Trout 2s in an exclusive Blueprint color scheme.
Trout and the designers of the shoe were both on hand to discuss what went in to making the Lunar Trout 2, the improvements upon the Lunar Vapor, and the little details put into the Blueprint version that made it a perfect tribute to the best player in the game. According to the designers, the shoe was created with the help of many direct insights from Trout, such as extra traction to get that important first step going, as well as getting more lightweight and comfortable from the previous incarnation.
Halos Heaven, along with MLB.com and OC Register, got to ask Mike a few questions about the shoe, and he seemed like a kid in a candy store, genuinely excited about his new kicks. We learned that he's already had teammates begging him to get hooked up upon the release, and that Howie Kendrick was also probably going to be knocking down Trout's door for a pair. Someone mentioned that they were already the right color, blue, which brought up something I heard from fans on Twitter after posting some pics that day: Why is Mike Trout debuting a blue shoe? Shouldn't they be red? Again, think "Blueprint". These signature models are made to look like a set of blueprints, and are filled with Mike Trout Easter eggs.
Here you can see a bit of what I'm referring to. On his last shoe, for instance, there was a little doppler thrown in the design to signify Trout's geeky affection for weather. This time around, all the extra little nuggets are examples of his baseball dominance. You can see 489ft, representing his power, or look for his average speed of balls coming off his bat right around the laces area, or the number 60, which represents his vertical leap(Nike designers said they actually tested trout having a 60 inch vertical...while wearing a 40lb weigh vest!!!!!). These tidbits and Easter eggs are all over the shoe, and as a lover of all things Trout, I was impressed. So while they're not the Angel red we know and love(he ended up debuting the red ones later in the evening, against the Astros), there is an extremely cool and interesting reason behind the blue, and that's the Mike Trout as Baseball MVP Blueprint motif. Again, no arguments here.
Once the presentations had wrapped up, I got into the fancy shuttle with other members of the media, and we were whisked away to Angel Stadium. The morning stuff was pretty neat and exciting, but the mind-blowing fun was really just starting. We got to the Big A and were greeted by Tim Mead himself, who welcomed us to the stadium and led us through the front doors, through the Diamond Club and right smack dab on to the field.
Once down on the field, we headed into the dugouts and were given Nike/Mike Trout swag bags. Time to gear up. I got my Lunar Trout 2s on, and headed out to the field where we were about to be put through some drills by Mike Trout and some familiar Angels faces. I'm no scientist or whatever, but I'm pretty sure that once I got the shoes on, I gained an extra 20 inches on my vertical, and shaved a second or two off of my 40 time. Again, this hasn't been verified, but I'm just sayin'. Yep...I was ready to be offered a contract right there on the spot, once these guys saw what I could do.
Mike Trout and his trainer, Dan Richter, gave us a little pep talk in the dugout, and we were off! We were ran through three sets of drills, all led by Angels personnel, or Trout himself. First up was some speed drills, with strength and conditioning coach T.J. Harrington. It was the first time I'd sprinted in a few years, and after the first one, my legs were barking already. That didn't stop me from posting an INSANE 4.55 home-plate-to-first-base time. I mean, sure, Mike Trout usually does it in about 3.3...but Harrington let me know that Bengie Molina was usually about 5.0 and above every time, so I at least had him beat.
Next was a fun little batting drill, and then we got to do a video of our swing. That part was pretty neat, and you'll be happy to know I pimped the hell out of it. Naturally.
We did some pop up drills with Gary DiSarcina after that, and while I showboated the first couple he threw to me, he made sure the last one was a doozy. I was unable to track it down, at which time DiSar commanded I give him ten pushups. Who was I to say no? If DiSar wants ten push ups, he gets ten pushups. In the downtime between drills, I asked him who was worst at running through his hold signal at third, knowing full well the answer would be Albert Pujols. He did say Pujols, but he mentioned that it was largely last year that he had a big problem. Apparently Pujols, who he admitted isn't the best runner these days and usually chugs along with his head down, asked him to come up with a verbal stop signal, so he began getting close to the bag and shouting at Albert as opposed to him giving a hold sign and hoping Pujols sees it.
Lastly was a fielding exercise with none other than bench coach Dino Ebel. This was probably my worst showing of the day, even though all we had to do was run up to a grounder, field it and throw home. I think my problem was he was telling people to just go half speed, and I can only give 110% so when I try to pull off the gas, I mess up. Basically, i'm TOO good, is what I'm saying...or something...look, it was super hot and I was tired so let's just not mention the two or three balls I launched over the catcher's head. After that drill, Dino talked a bit about Mike and Kole Calhoun playing long toss once a week and how it's turned Mike's arm into a canon.
With our gear-up experience coming to a close, we huddled over by the left field wall, chugged a bunch of BODYARMOR, and Mike Trout thanked us all for coming out, even though I felt like I should be thanking him(which I did, of course). What a day at the park, and it wasn't over yet. After a nice lunch in the empty Diamond Club, we were shuttled back to a beachfront hotel, where we had rooms for showering and/or napping, and then it was back into the shuttle where we got to go see some batting practice, and then took in a game from a decked out suite. If I said this was an amazing and unreal time at the stadium, I'd still be selling it short.
A sneak peak at my favorite player's sick new shoe, a day of baseball drills at an empty Big A, with Mike Trout and coaches hanging out, batting practice at the Big A and then watching the Angels beat Houston from a luxury suite? I'm pretty sure life doesn't get any better than that. This was an unreal event, and I hope I represented Halos Heaven well.
Just in case the pics weren't good(or funny) enough, here's a sweet vid put together and filmed by my friend Tyler Dacey. Go ahead, check out my blazing speed and fielding prowess...just don't get jealous. Well, at least not for my skills. Feel free to get jealous about those sweet Nike Lunar Trout 2s(available October 3rd, FYI...sure to be on the wishlist of Angels fans and ballplayers alike. The Blueprint version available only through Nike's website).
An insane amount of thanks goes out to Nike, Mike Trout, all of our gracious hosts behind the event(including the Angels themselves) and my intrepid photographer. I'm a lucky man.