ORANGE, Calif. - The guest of honor took the stage at the Atrium at the DoubleTree Hotel in front of about 200 J&J Snack Foods contest winners, company executives and regional clients.
Mike Trout had an off day last week as an Angels All-Star outfielder, but he went to work as a pitchman, dressed in a collared shirt, dark slacks and black leather loafers, answering questions on the microphone, taking photographs and signing autographs at every pivoting turn through the swanky cocktail party crowd.
Trout, 21, has had to learn to play this marketing game that comes along with rising fame.
"He used to shy away from some of these things," said Trout's agent, Craig Landis, who was in attendance. "He loves them now. He's getting more and more comfortable (in this marketing role)."
On this night, Trout isn't only the reigning American League Rookie of the Year. The New Jersey-born phenom known as "The Supernatural" is also Mr. SuperPretzel, talking about his affection for the popular ballpark soft pretzel produced by Pennsauken, N.J.-based J&J Snack Foods.
"It's fun," Trout said of his expanding spokesman role.
Near-life-sized standups of Trout holding up the popular twisted treat took up the corners of the room. Highlight videos from Trout's Millville (N.J.) Senior High to major league days spooled continuously on flatscreens around the stage.
J&J Snack Foods was one of the first companies to sign Trout to a multiyear product endorsement deal during his 2012 rookie season. Trout's growing endorsement portfolio includes Nike, BodyArmor SuperDrink, Subway, Topps and Panini America trading cards.
"This first time I met him, he was a shy guy, humble, with his head down and not saying much. Now look at him," said Gerald Schreiber, CEO and president of J&J Snack Foods.
"We knew he was something real special when we signed him a year and a half ago, but I don't think anybody expected him to do what he has been doing."
Fifty guests at last week's event were winners of a nationwide essay contest asking entrants why they would want to meet Trout. Each received travel and hotel for a two-night trip to Southern California to go to Disneyland, attend Monday's cocktail party to meet Trout and see him play in Tuesday's Angels game.
Winner Lexi Ramos, 14, of Millville, got to visit Trout for the second time, the first time coming last year when Trout returned to visit Lakeside Middle School, his former school.
"He has grown up a lot since then," Lexi said. "When he came to my school, he was so shy that someone else had to ask and answer questions for him about baseball."
On stage, Trout was funny and candid during a brief question-and-answer session, talking about how excited he is to play and live out his dream.
"This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me," said winner Laura Butler, 15, of Whittier, Calif. "I love Mike Trout so much. I even did a school project on New Jersey."
She wore a pink cocktail dress, took a picture with Trout and was so star struck in his presence that all she could say was, "Thank you."
Trout, still a little overwhelmed to be a celebrity, laughed and said, "You're welcome."