On May 20 of last year, Mike Trout had New York Mets manager Terry Collins debating the merits of a move only six others have ever tried in baseball history.
The Los Angeles Angels were trailing 7-2 in the top of the ninth inning, but tallied two in the frame and loaded the bases for the Millville native.
Addison Reed got Trout to hit into a sacrifice fly, making the score 7-5, and the Mets hung on from there.
However, Collins almost didn’t give Trout the opportunity to swing the bat.
“The first thought is, I’d almost try to walk this guy (rather) that pitch to him,” Collins said after the game.
An intentional walk with the bases loaded — the highest form of respect a manager could show to a hitter, and Trout had Collins thinking about it.
Ironically, almost nine years to the day before that, before Trout started crushing baseballs into the sport’s Mount Rushmore, carving his face among the game’s all-time greats, he had another manager in that exact position.
On May 23, 2008, Millville High School was hosting Cherry Hill East in the South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals, and Cougars coach Erik Radbill entered the game with one simple strategy – don’t let Trout beat us.
So Radbill intentionally walked the junior leadoff hitter three times that day – including once with the bases loaded. The plan worked, as East upset the Thunderbolts 11-5.
Radbill didn’t know Trout would become the player he’s turned into, but his ascension has made his decision “folklore,” as he puts it.
As the 10-year anniversary of that day approaches, those involved with that game reflect on the strange-but-true moment.