PHILADELPHIA — Cameras clicked as Mike Trout walked into a packed media room at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon.
The magnitude of Trout’s homecoming seemed to even surprise him.
“There’s a lot of people here,” Trout said after taking a deep breath.
The Los Angeles Angels center fielder and Millville resident made his first professional appearance in Philadelphia as the Angels played the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night. Trout, 22, graduated from Millville High School in 2009 and grew up rooting for the Phillies. The Angels will also play the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. today.
“It feels great to be home,” Trout said before the game. “It’s going to be pretty cool to see the reaction of the fans. Growing up a fan of the Philly teams, if someone has a different jersey on. They were getting booed.”
Trout didn’t have to worry. The crowd of 41,959 fans — The Phillies largest of the season since the home opener — gave him a standing ovation when he came to bat in the first inning.
“To think I would be here,” Trout said. “I was playing high school ball a few years ago. It’s a special feeling.”
Millville fans were everywhere at Citizens Bank Park. People wore Trout’s red and white No. 27 Angels jersey. Others wore his orange and blue No. 1 Millville High School jersey.
The current Millville baseball team got to go on the field to watch Trout and the Angels take batting practice before the game.
“It’s nice to see somebody (make it big) that came from our school and had the same teachers we have,” Millville senior baseball player Roberto Rivera said. “It’s neat.”
Rivera and his teammates seemed overwhelmed by the experience.
“I used to go see him play in high school,” Millville junior baseball player Bill Forte said. “Now, I’m seeing him here. It’s surreal.”
The Angels played in Toronto on Monday night. Trout and the team flew into Philadelphia airport early Tuesday morning. He arrived at his Millville home at 2:30 a.m. and was asleep by 2:45 a.m.
He spent time with his family Tuesday morning before heading to Citizens Bank. Trout did find the time to eat a hamburger from Jim’s Lunch – a favorite spot of his in Millville. Trout’s usual order is six hamburgers.
“I have a game tonight,” he said with a smile.
Reporters from several New Jersey papers and just about every Philadelphia television station attended Trout’s press conference.
Trout seemed more at ease than ever in before the game. He smiled often during the press conference, joking with reporters. Trout greeted familiar faces from Millville during practice and even signed a few autographs.
It was Millville night at Citizens Bank. The town brought 4,000 tickets to the game. The Millville High School marching band played before the game.
“I love the support,” Trout said. “It means a lot coming from a small town.”
Trout’s homecoming seemed to mean as much to the Millville people in the stands as it did to him.
It’s not just that Millville people are fans of Trout. Many of them seem to have a connection to Trout and his family. His former teachers and neighbors were in the crowd. Even his babysitter was in the stands.
Millville resident Jill Bock babysat for Trout, his older brother Tyler and sister Teal.
“We all know him as Mikey,” she said. “I’m not surprised (at the crowd). We knew he would be a star in high school. Everybody in the town has pulled together. Even people from Vineland – the competitive town next door - had Millville shirts on. You don’t go far without finding someone who has been touched by the family.”
Trout still returns Millville each offseason. He still lives in his parents’ home but he said he will soon build a home of his own somewhere in South Jersey. He still has season tickets for Philadelphia Eagles games and he doesn’t sound like a passive football fan.
“I get up and cheer a little bit,” he said. “I’m into the game. If they get beat, it’s tough.”
Trout said a lot of his friends were still going to root for the Phillies on Tuesday.
“They might cheer for me and boo everybody else,” Trout said with a laugh.
Trout relished sharing his homecoming with others.
“If I got a chance to come on the for (batting practice) as a high school kid, it would be an unbelievable experience,” he said. “For me, as a kid, if I saw a professional athlete I would want an autograph or picture. Every chance I get to take a picture or give an autograph to a young kid I do.”
Trout maybe one of baseball’s biggest names, but he showed Tuesday night he still remembers what it was like to be a Phillies fan from Millville.
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