Happy feat: Trout in awe of his new Nike cleat
Angels star just second baseball player to have signature shoe line with company
FULLERTON, Calif. -- How cool is it to be Mike Trout?
The guy is 22 years old and he already has two runner-up finishes for American League MVP. He gets to play center field every day for the Angels and live in Southern California. He's still revered in his beloved hometown of Millville, N.J.
And let's not forget that he recently signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract extension and will be ready to hit the free-agent market for his next deal at age 29.
Not bad, right?
So you'd think he'd be unfazed by any new developments in a life that's shot way past Hollywood and all the way into the sports celebrity stratosphere. Seriously, what more can the guy accomplish? Aren't all the accolades pretty boring by now?
The answer to that last question was a resounding "No" on Friday, when Trout's mind was blown all over again.
Nike had created a signature cleat for him, the Nike Lunar Vapor Trout, that the fleet outfielder and representatives from the famed sports equipment and apparel company were showing off Friday before the Angels' 7-3 win over the Texas Rangers a few miles down the freeway at Angel Stadium.
The shoe was newsworthy in itself: a red and fluorescent yellow wonder of aerodynamics that had been almost two years in the making after numerous consultations between Trout and a team of more than 30 biomechanics experts, designers and innovators working in concert at Nike's Oregon headquarters.
The moment was significant, too, in the annals of sports and pop culture. Trout became only the second baseball player (Ken Griffey Jr. was the first) to have his very own signature shoe line with Nike. That's a big deal in a big industry, and it's a big deal for a big-time talent like Trout.
"Everything that I wanted in a shoe, they made it happen," Trout said after entering a room full of media members to the strains of laid-back electronic dance music while a video of his on-the-field highlights played.
"Now that it's here, it just gives me chills looking at it right now. I mean, I'm speechless."
Trout said when he was approached by Nike a few years ago, he told the shoe's designer, Matthew Pauk, and Nike's global product line manager for baseball cleats, former independent league outfielder Cameron Shick, that his goals for the ideal Mike Trout cleat were simple.
"Speed is my game," Trout said. "I wanted to take it to the next level."
That meant it had to be comfortable and it had to be lightweight, and, as Pauk described, it also had to adhere to perhaps the most elusive and difficult challenge of all when trying to satisfy an athlete in his early 20s.
"He always leaves us with a little sound bite when we leave him," Pauk said. "Like, 'If I look good, I play good.' And, 'Make it hot.'"
They did, and Trout was effusive in his praise for the work of Pauk and Shick in doing just that. The look of the shoe turns heads, to begin with, with the aerodynamic ridges on the outside of the cleat that almost look like the scales on, well, a trout.
The human Trout also raved about the comfort, which is achieved primarily with the lightweight Nike Lunarlon foam midsole, the "booty" concept in which the ankle is surrounded by a form-fitting sheath after the foot goes into the shoe, a four-way stretch mesh inner sleeve, and the Nike Flywire technology that enables the foot to be "locked down" with cables that go from the top of the cleat to the split Pebax speed plate on the bottom.
The result is a cleat that Trout and his Nike pals are sure will leave vapor trails all over the fields of the American League for years to come.
"For us, Vapor is all about speed," Shick said. "Vapor represents the fastest and the lightest in the game. And really, Vapor was engineered to make athletes faster in the field -- really, to shrink the field.
"Mike represents incredible progress in the game of baseball. … There's nothing he can't do on the baseball field. And he gives us an incredible inspiration because of that -- our design teams and our innovation teams. And that's a place for us to start."
Friday was yet another celebration of Trout in the backyard of his baseball team, and part of the party was a little bit of quality time with a person very close to the two-time All-Star: his personal trainer.
Dan Richter is the athletic trainer at Millville High School and began working with Trout in 2009. He continues to work with Trout in the offseason, and on Friday he gave media members a bit of a taste of what Trout goes through in an average day's workout on the field.
Sprints, agility drills, running and leaping at the wall, and endurance and core exercises were demonstrated, with everyone decked out in more of the Trout Nike baseball line gear, including sliding shorts and socks and Dri-FIT caps with the new Nike baseball logo.
"It's been great to work with him because he's such a great athlete, and he's such a unique athlete," Richter said. "I'm just happy to be along for the ride."
And so is Nike, which realized early in the process that a rare talent like this needed a rare shoe.
"We've been able to push the needle with the aesthetic," Pauk said. "You look at Mike Trout on the field, and he plays the game like nobody else plays the game, so … it's got to be a shoe that has never looked like anything we've done in baseball before."