Mike Trout: Anything short of WBC title would be 'a failure' for Team USA

The Angels' Mike Trout gestures as he rounds first base after hitting a solo homer.
Angels center fielder Mike Trout, gesturing after hitting a home run on Sept. 16, 2022, is the captain for Team USA for the World Baseball Classic. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Mike Trout’s beloved Philadelphia Eagles play Saturday. He’ll be in attendance.

“I’m going to be up there screaming,” he said.

The Super Bowl takes place next month, and the Eagles could be there. The World Baseball Classic takes place the following month, and Trout will be there.

The Angels' star center fielder is the captain of Team USA. The Eagles, like Team USA, have a home-field advantage. And, as Trout noted, each is a top seed.

For the first time in his 13-year career, Trout is participating in baseball’s foremost international tournament — not for goodwill, not for bonding with other players, not for growing the game.

“The whole reason I signed up: trying to win this thing,” Trout said. “There is nothing else.

“Anything else is a failure.”

Team USA is the defending WBC champion, winning in 2017 after Japan won the first two editions of the tournament and the Dominican Republic won the third. Trout, who declined to play after his 2012 American League rookie-of-the-year season and 2016 AL MVP season, said he watched the 2017 games and appreciated the atmosphere and intensity of the tournament.

“That’s what I regretted,” he said. “I should have been out there.”

As captain, he recruited some players, and others reached out to him. The first player he recruited, Trout said: Bryce Harper, with whom he has been compared since they each won rookie-of-the-year awards in 2012.

When Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, he vowed to recruit Trout, who instead signed a contract extension with the Angels.

“Look, this is a chance we get to play together,” Trout said he told Harper, “and I think it would be a pretty cool moment.”

Harper is out after elbow surgery, but the USA roster still features such stars as Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw and Will Smith from the Dodgers, plus the likes of Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Trea Turner.

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani high-fives center fielder Mike Trout after beating the Miami Marlins on July 6, 2022.
Shohei Ohtani, left, and Mike Trout, celebrating an Angels win on July 6, 2022, in Miami, could face each other in the World Baseball Classic. (Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Once the WBC concludes, Trout will return to the Angels, in search of the first postseason victory of his career. No major league team has gone longer without a playoff appearance than the Angels, who last played in the postseason in 2014.

The Angels this winter have added veterans in pitchers Tyler Anderson and Carlos Estevez, infielders Brandon Drury and Gio Urshela and outfielder Hunter Renfroe, with general manager Perry Minasian fortifying a lineup that collapsed last season amid injuries to Trout, infielders Anthony Rendon, David Fletcher and Jared Walsh and outfielder Taylor Ward.

“I think Perry has done a great job bringing in some pieces that we were missing last year,” Trout said.

Shohei Ohtani, the AL MVP in 2021 and the runner-up last year, can leave the Angels as a free agent after the coming season. Trout said he and Ohtani discussed the WBC last season, and with it the possibility that Trout could bat against Ohtani and Team Japan.

“I get a front-row seat every time he pitches,” Trout said. “It’s pretty nasty. Every person I talk to that faces him says they don’t want to be in the box. It’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to it. He’s one of my good friends, so it’s going to be fun.”

Trout called the Japan roster “stacked” but said Ohtani has been trying to persuade him that he might not be the best player on the team. As he told the story on a Zoom on Friday, Trout laughed.

“There’s no way,” Trout said, “that there’s somebody better.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.