Angels star Mike Trout's hometown ready to celebrate the kid from the 'Ville'

·7 min read
Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout rounds first after hitting a solo home run
Angels' Mike Trout rounds first after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics on May 22 at Angel Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The fusillade would usually start around 9 a.m. on Saturdays. Click! Clack! Clank! Tim Shannon would look out the window of his home on Morias Avenue in Millville, N.J., and sure enough, there would be young Mike Trout, in full Little League uniform, tossing up rocks and hitting them with a Wiffle ball bat from the house next door.

“He’d have a 4 p.m. game and would be up Saturday morning whacking gray driveway stones, knocking them over the trees and into my yard, pinging them off my house,” said Shannon, now 65. “I had to whistle at him, cuss at him. ‘Yo, Mikey, cut it out, dude! You’re gonna knock my windows out!’ ”

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

“It was the end of the day, and kids do anything in study hall except study, and I remember him always talking about Derek Jeter being his hero,” said Arrigo, now 69. “And then at his first All-Star Game [in 2012], I saw a picture of him in the newspaper standing next to Derek Jeter. I still get chills thinking about it.”

Shannon and Arrigo, like so many lifelong residents in this working-class town of 28,000 in South Jersey, watched Trout grow from that mischievous Little Leaguer to Millville High star, first-round pick of the Angels, three-time American League most valuable player, nine-time All-Star and surefire Hall of Famer.

That a “kid from the ‘Ville,'” as Shannon calls Trout, could accomplish so much by his 30th birthday, all while displaying the humility, work ethic and grit the area is known for, continues to buoy the spirits of a town that saw the last of the glass, rubber and heavy machinery factories that fueled the local economy for decades shut down in the early 1990s.

“Millville has fallen on some hard times,” said Shannon, who runs a family funeral home and served as Millville’s mayor from 2009 to 2013. “You look at the industries that have shut down, different things the city has gone through, what we’ve had to go up against …

“When you have somebody like Mike, it gives people something to be proud of. Their chest is pumped out a little bit. They’re walking a little straighter. They’ve got a little hop to their step. There’s that excitement.”

That excitement and pride will be on full display this weekend when 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 for Trout’s second series in Philadelphia and first in eight years.

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

“I think half the town is going to Philadelphia,” Arrigo said. “We’re all excited to see Mike.”

The town will celebrate “Millville Pride Night” during Friday night’s series opener, and there should be plenty of blue-and-orange Millville High No. 1 Trout jerseys throughout the park all weekend. But it will be tough to match the “big event” buzz of Trout’s first foray into Philly in 2014.

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

The Angels played two games in that mid-May series, on a Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. Some 6,000 to 7,000 residents of Millville and Cumberland County attended the series opener, which was 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 on May 14, 2014, in Philadelphia. (Associated Press)

A local busing company used most of its fleet — seven charters and eight school buses — to transport fans to the game. There were tailgate parties and a pregame party in a stadium sports bar. The Millville High band and chorus performed the national anthem. The mayor threw out the first pitch.

As Trout was introduced before his first at-bat, a sellout 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 for 30 seconds.

“I couldn’t tell you with 100% certainty,” said Dan Baker, who is in his 50th year as the Phillies’ public address announcer, “but that may have been the biggest and most sustained round of applause I’ve ever heard for an opposing player here.”

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

Fans cheer as Angels' Mike Trout approaches the plate for his first at-bat.
Fans cheer as Angels' Mike Trout approaches the plate for his first at-bat in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 13, 2014, in Philadelphia (Laurence Kesterson / Associated Press)

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m going bald, but every little bit of hair that was on my head was standing straight up,” he said. “It just gave you chills.”

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

“It was a great experience in 2014, and it’s going to be special to go back to Philly — I’m looking forward to it,” Trout said Wednesday. “When the schedule came out, these are the three games that I circled. I love coming back and seeing everybody.”

Justin Shephard holds up a sign for Angels' Mike Trout before the start of a game.
Justin Shephard, 9, from Deptford, N.J., holds up a sign for Angels' Mike Trout before the start of a game with the Philadelphia Phillies on May 13, 2014, in Philadelphia. (Laurence Kesterson / Associated Press)

The Millville contingent should be strong but a little more diffused this weekend. John Sheppard, who owns the local busing company, said he will send only one school bus to Friday night’s game and one motorcoach to Saturday night’s game. The high school band will not be performing.

“The excitement and the buzz leading up to the [2014] game … that’s all people were talking about,” Shannon said. “There’s not as much buzz this time, but I guarantee you there will be as many people as there were 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 procured six tickets in the center-field bleachers in early January, as soon as they were available.

“We have seats in the second row,” 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 channel, rented out the Bill Giles Suite, which seats 90 at $200 per 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 seats, and I sold them. Then they said I could go to 75 if I wanted, and I got all of those tickets sold [last weekend]. I probably could have sold out the 90 tickets, but the suite gets a little tight.”

Trout has regained his MVP form after sitting out most of 2021 because of a calf strain, batting .302 with a 1.038 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 13 homers and 28 RBIs entering Thursday's doubleheader with the Yankees.

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

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

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.