With due respect to the sabermetrics-fearing baseball scribes who voted their bat speed-loving hearts, the best player in the American League – in all of baseball, actually – over the last two seasons wasn't back-to-back MVP Miguel Cabrera. It was Mike Trout. And the speed with which the 22-year-old center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels climbed to that perch is nothing short of stunning. With two seasons of Major League ball under his belt and a six-year, $144-million contract in his back pocket, Trout is a force of nature only injury can stop.
He knows it. That's why Trout put himself through a rigorous offseason training regimen after taking a few weeks off at the end of the year to heal and recharge. "He usually comes seven days a week. Occasionally six, depending on his schedule," says Trout's trainer, Dan Richter. "We do a different activity each day. One day we'll concentrate on lower body strength. Another day, on his core. Another day, on agility and flexibility, and another we’ll do power and agility. And then there's usually a day of more typical, cardiovascular conditioning." The workouts work. Just look at the guy: He's ripped.
But Richter's aim is functionality. He generally keeps Trout on his feet – "If he's lying down on a baseball field, it's not usually a good thing" – while mixing cardio work with his strength training. Richter might ask Trout to run through a set of pull-ups or lunges before breaking into sprints. Moments of (relative) stasis before a jolt of activity. "It's like him standing in the outfield, where all of a sudden he's exploding to get a ball," Richter says.
Once the season starts, even a freakish athlete like Trout has to recognize his limits, knocking down only three workouts a week. To last through a 162 game season, emphasis must go from building strength to maintaining it. While Trout admits his diet still takes advantage of a youthful metabolism, he doesn't screw around with his legs. His legs are everything.
"I'm still young, obviously – 22 – but the biggest thing is learning to take care of your legs," he says. "That's your base. Your arm gets tired a little bit and your upper body gets sore, but if you take care of it and get treatment, get a rubdown, you're ok. The biggest thing that helps me is the hot/cold tub. After a game, hitting the cold tub to ice your legs. Everyone does it. I've seen NBA stars icing their legs. The tub keeps your legs fresh and helps keep that base strong."
During games, Trout focuses on hydration – he's all at once a user of, pitchman for, and small stakeholder in the sports drink BODYARMOR, which recently made the news when Kobe Bryant bought about 10 percent of the company – and any signals his body sends. "You've got to know when you can go and when you can't go," he says, even while understanding how many people buy tickets specifically to watch him play. "If you can't play to your full potential, if something's nagging you or bothering you, you've got to get it fixed. You have to do what's right for you, what's right for your body. It's your career, your future, and if you take a day off or two days, or even three, it's better than missing a two or three months."
In combination with genes someone really ought to be cloning, Trout's approach has proven undeniably effective. He played 157 games last year, sustaining enough strength to post an almost cartoonish .479 on base percentage and a 1.022 OPS after the All-Star break, the former topped the MLB, the latter came in second.
No wonder Trout feels little impetus to change his approach. "I'm going to be smart about it, take care of my body, and keep my same rituals – the same routine I’ve been doing – and go from there."