There must be something in the local soil and salt water.
The blueberries, corn and tomatoes grown on area farms are among the best in the country.
Area vineyards are producing wines that are gaining national acclaim.
And in my opinion, no one can match the Jersey Shore when it comes to seafood.
Same thing goes for sports.
Consider that the country’s best male Olympic triathlete (Joe Maloy), Major League baseball player (Mike Trout) and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver (Martin Truex, Jr.) were all raised within 50 miles of Atlantic City.
Talk about a bumper crop.
Head out of the city in almost any direction except east — unless you’re in search of the best fisherman or surfer — and you’ll hit their hometowns.
Drive south on the Garden State Parkway, veer left at the base of the Cape May bridge, cruise along Ocean Drive past the entrance to Two Mile Landing, and you’ll hit Wildwood Crest. That’s where Maloy, the top American finisher in the men’s triathlon at the Rio Olympics in August, grew up.
Venture west on the Black Horse Pike weave around Lake Lenape in Mays Landing, find your way onto Millville-Mays Landing Road and you’ll wind up in Millville. It’s officially known as the “Holly City” and was famous for Wheaton Glass. Now, it’s recognized as Trout’s hometown.
Go north on the GSP to Exit 63A, head toward Long Beach Island, turn right onto Route 9 South and you’ll end up in the Mayetta section of Stafford Township, where Truex used to live.
To their credit, none of them has forgotten where they came from.
Maloy, 30, now lives and trains in San Diego. But ask him where he’s from and he always answers, “Wildwood Crest.”
The tiny town is a part of him, and it’s always in his mind and his heart.
No matter where he’s competing — Australia, Brazil and China were just a few of his stops this year — he follows the same prerace ritual.
An hour before the start, he swims out for about a half mile and looks back at the shoreline. It’s a reminder of his days on the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol, when he and his younger brother John would hit the water after work and watch the Ferris Wheel and Tram Car — “Wa-Wa-Watch the Tram Car, Please!” — roll along the Wildwood Boardwalk.
“Nothing compares to that view,” Maloy said before the Olympics.
Trout just completed another amazing season with the Los Angeles Angels that solidified his status as the best player in the game.
With all due respect to Boston’s Mookie Betts and David Ortiz, Trout should win his second American League Most Valuable Player award in three seasons.
The 25-year-old led the majors in runs (123), walks (116), on-base percentage (.441) and wins above replacement (10.6) as calculated by Baseball Reference. He batted a career-best .315 and fell one home run short of joining the exclusive “30-30 Club” that features players with at least 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in the same season for the second time in his career.
Perhaps more importantly, he compiled those statistics while playing the game with unbridled joy, as if every game was his first. If he was worn out by the grind of the 162-game season and worn down by the Angels’ struggles, he didn’t let it affect his play or his relationship with the fans.
To me, Trout’s defining moment this season was not a diving catch or tape-measure home run. It came in late August, when he ventured over to the stands before a game at Detroit’s Comerica Park and signed a baseball for a kid wearing a No. 27 Trout Angels jersey.
“I love you Mike, you’re my favorite player,” the kid tells him in the video. After Trout gives him the ball back, the kid rushes into the arms of his father and starts to cry.
Trout has made countless similar gestures for kids in Millville. He donates cleats and other baseball gear to the Millville High School baseball team each year. He also paid for renovations to the field, which is named in his honor.
When the American League MVP results are announced in November, chances are Trout will be playing golf or hunting with boyhood friends.
Truex has to be considered the favorite to win the NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup in November.
The 36-year-old is the circuit’s hottest driver, having just earned his fourth victory of the year — and second in the last three races — on the famed “Monster Mile” last Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
Although he now lives in North Carolina and drives for Denver-based Furniture Row Racing, Truex considers Dover to be his home track on the Sprint Cup circuit because of its proximity to Mayetta.
The Southern Regional High School graduate, who is also a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan, visits home a few times a year to go fishing with his buddies and have dinner with his family.
Maloy, Trout and Truex Jr. have all blossomed into stars in their respective sports.
But their roots are in South Jersey.
(David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.)