Mike Trout is giving young baseball players a bad name.
The Millville native made the jump from playing in the Cape-Atlantic League to the American League look easy.
Trout went from competing in the Diamond Classic and South Jersey Group IV tournaments to batting in front of Albert Pujols for the Los Angeles Angels and leading the AL in batting with a .336 average.
The road from anonymity to the majors is supposed to be an arduous one, complete with one obstacle after another.
Just ask Margate native and Holy Spirit High School graduate A.J. Holland.
Trout was a first-round draft choice out of high school, signed a hefty contract and sprinted through the Angels’ farm system.
Holland went the college route, going from Holy Spirit High School in Absecon to Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia before getting drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 16th round last season.
This season, his first full year of professional baseball, the 22-year-old right-hander has endured some rough outings and most recently a minor arm injury.
“The biggest thing is the day-to-day grind,” Holland said in a phone interview last week. “We literally play every single day and we’re just working to get better every single day. It comes down to the grind and staying healthy.”
Holland is 1-7 this season in eight starts with a 5.52 ERA through 452/3 innings. He has 21 strikeouts and 16 walks. Holland’s last outing came on May 17 for the Rome Braves of the single-A South Atlantic League.
A few days earlier, a bug swept through the clubhouse and hit the team hard. Holland lost 15 pounds in a matter of days. Holland threw well in his next start, going seven innings and allowing three runs on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
But he tweaked his pitching elbow.
An MRI revealed a slight muscle strain in his elbow but no structural damage.
Holland has been building up a long-tossing regimen after shutting it down for a couple of weeks. He threw from a mound earlier this week for the first time since the injury.
A few more bullpen sessions, perhaps a relief appearance or two, and then Holland expects to be game ready.
“I had a few good outings and a few ugly outings, but that’s pitching, though,” Holland said. “You’re playing the best guys from colleges every day. It is competition every single day.
“It’s been an awesome experience. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but with the Braves.”
Rome Braves pitching coach Derrick Lewis likes what he has seen from Holland.
“He has a lot of potential,” Lewis said Friday in a phone interview. “He has all the intangibles and he works hard. He’s one of the hardest workers we have and you combine the talent with the hard work and I think he has a lot of upside.”
Lewis has spent his entire career with the Braves, reaching as high as Triple-A before becoming a coach.
“We build players,” Lewis said. “It’s not about getting them to the big leagues tomorrow. It’s about getting the guys ready throughout the years, so when they get there they are ready to be there.”
Holland and Trout were one year apart in high school and were teammates for a couple of games on the Tri-Cape Carpenter Cup team.
Holland said he remembers Trout hitting a home run in his first at-bat and then making a handful of spectacular plays at shortstop.
“That just shows you that hard work pays off,” Holland said. “He’s got that attitude that separates him now in the big leagues.”
Contact John O’Kane: