The BakerBoys&Baseball are finalists for Angels Fans of the Year

Hello BakerBoys&Baseball Family!

We were nominated and then selected as one of four finalists for MLBs Angels Fans of the Year.  We need your help and your votes!  The only way to vote is on Twitter.  Send a tweet with #AngelsFOTY1 to help us share the baseball love!  Re-Tweets and Likes don’t count as votes.  Please spread the word for us and then go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!

Thanks!

Zac and Steve Baker


 

An Impromptu Installment from The BakerBoys&Baseball 5/20/2016 Orioles at Angels

The Baltimore Orioles are in town and that means the return of hometown hero and BaseBallBoy favorite, Mark Trumbo.  We got to go down on the field before the game and Zac got to tell Kole Calhoun how he has modeled his Crow Hop by watching Kole throw fools out!  Johnny “G” never disappoints as he hooked up our buddy, Tanner “T-Money” Higgs up with batting gloves.  Getting the chance to hang out with Mike Trout and a visit from our favorite Halo broadcaster, Alex Curry were definitely highlights and Zac was able to share our blog story with some of his favorite players.

Of course his #1 guy was the moment Zac was looking forward to and Zac took advantage of being able to catch up with his Baseball Hero, Mark Trumbo.  Also, a huge thank you to one of the nicest people in all of baseball, Tim Mead for our personal tour of the batting cages and media room through the dugout where the fellas exchanged fist bumps and slapped hands with Halo players before the game.  We also got to see Andrelton Simmons working in the cage throwing balls and showing off his powerful arm.  Hopefully that is a good sign that he is feeling good and well on his way to making his way back to anchor the infield defense.

The Orioles took the series opener 9-4, powered by 4 Home Runs, including a two run shot by Mr. Trumbo.  Mark is off to a scorching start to his 2016 campaign, batting .306 and an American League leading 13 Home Runs to go along with 31 RBI!

The game saw an overly ambitious young umpire questionably toss Hector Santiago, ending his evening prematurely in the 3rd inning.  The Halo offense that has been resurgent the past few weeks, sputtered a bit in this one managing 4 runs on 7 hits.  Kole Calhoun was robbed of a Home Run in the bottom of the first by a young fan looking to corral a souvenir.

It’s tough to feel bad about this loss being that it was a great day for our crew.  If I am completely honest I have a very tough time rooting against any team that features our favorite slugger.  He always goes out of his way for Zac and I truly appreciate it!  We will be at the stadium for the remaining game of the series and hope the Halos can pull out a W or two, but secretly will also be hopeful that we can see some more Trumbombs!

We have several interview requests out there and hope to have something fun to share with all of you.  In the mean time, keep filling the in between pauses with meaningful, thoughtful moments and go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!

BakerBoys&Baseball Go Bilingual, Solamente un Poquito

This installment from the BakerBoys&Baseball is long overdue.  Just before the Halos 2015 season came up just one game short of the playoffs, we had the great pleasure of sitting down with Angel’s broadcaster and fan favorite, José MotaWe had Zac’s baseball buddy and good friend, Ethan “Bear” Geiss join the BakerBoys team and help us on the interview by asking some of the questions in Spanish.  Like Zac, Bear is 9 years old and he participates in a dual emersion program, learning in both English and Spanish from the time he started Elementary School.

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En primer lugar, permítanme applogize a José por el tiempo que ha tomado para compartir esta historia. La tarea de llevar a cabo una entrevista y traducir en dos idiomas resultó un poco más difícil de lo previsto. Dicho esto, el tiempo y las historias compartidas José eran muy apreciado y la entrevista fue uno de nuestros favoritos de la temporada pasada.

 

We had intended to share this story after the regular season concluded, and hopefully before the Halos would start a historic playoff run.  Unfortunately, the tough month of August left the team just short of the promise land, in spite of an incredible September stretch run that saw our Angels push their rivals until the very last day of the regular season.  With that, we decided to wait until the new season began to share this story.

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José was kind enough to sit down with us before a game on the Fox Sports West set before one of the games on the last home stand of the season.  Growing up the son of Manny Mota, a professional baseball player from the Dominican Republic, baseball was a way of life for a young José Mota “The Dominican Republic is a very special place to grow up.  We could play baseball year round”, José shared.  “My father played for the most popular team in the Dominican and I got to meet a lot of baseball players even before they became Big Leaguers, including Mike Scoiscia“. 

José was destined to have a professional career in the game of baseball.  He said, “At about eleven or twelve, I told my Dad I wanted to be a professional baseball player.  He agreed to help me, but insisted that first I had to study and get an education.  When I was growing up in the Dominican, we played baseball year round, but only on Saturdays.  If I didn’t get good grades, I wasn’t allowed to play baseball.” 

In 1962, Manny Mota was the 10th player from the Dominican to play Major League Baseball.  Since then more than 500 players, including José and his brother, Andy, have played on Baseball’s Senior Circuit.  Five out of six of Manny’s sons played some level of professional baseball.  Baseball affords young men from the Dominican a way to provide for families, as opportunities for financial success in the Dominican Republic are very limited.

Although there is a true love of baseball in José’s heart, you can tell his disappointment in how the nature of the game has changed in Dominican, “Baseball has become such a big industry.  It has taken some of the fun out of it.   There are those who see a young talent as a product they can sell.  Players at the age of 14 or 15 years old stop going to school and are pushed to pursue baseball full time.”  He doesn’t hold it against the young men who see the opportunities afforded those that succeed in the game.  “They see the business side of it.  They want to provide for their families, build a house for their Mom and have a good life.  The professions in the Dominican will not allow that type of luxury or attain that financial level.” 

While disenchanted with the business side of the game, there is a tangible pride José has when sharing the impact his family and other players have had on the opportunities and resources available to the youth in the Dominican Republic.  José said, “We were very fortunate because of my Dad’s baseball career.  We got to travel to the United States every year.  When we would come back home, we would provide stuff for the kids to play with.  There were kids that couldn’t afford shoes or a glove and we would bring stuff back from the United States to share with them.  Some of those same kids went on to become Major Leaguers.”

While Manny Mota helped shape the man and player José would become, it was his mother that was tasked with running the Mota household and making sure that José and his five brothers and two sisters stayed in line and worked hard in school, while Dad was away playing baseball.  Speaking about his mother, José said, “Mom was our rock.  She ran our house.”  Like Manny, she stressed the importance of getting an education first, above baseball.  She would say, “as much as you love baseball, you need to go to school.  One moment you could be playing and the next you could be injured and your playing days could be over.  Then what would you do?”  It was the consistent message from both of his parents, that made getting a college education a goal that was equal to pursuing a career as a professional player.

It wasn’t just his parents that stressed the importance of education.  When getting to spend his summer months hanging out at Dodgers Stadium, there were many, including Tommy Lasorda, that told José to “study hard and shoot for college.”  Tommy would say, “Little Mota, you need to work hard and stay out of trouble.” 

José did work hard, but he also had a lot of fun spending his summers hanging around the team.  “The players were always so nice to us and that came down from the O’Malley family.  Kids were welcomed in the club house, in the food/candy room.”   The Mota kids even had their own lockers inside the Club House.  I am sure Adam LaRoche would have loved to play for the O’Malley’s  Dodgers.

For José, the unique experience he enjoyed wasn’t just play time.  He took advantage of being around professional ball players and the game he loved.  José explained, “I learned a lot by listening and watching.  I could tell that in order to succeed, it would take a lot of hard work.  I spent a lot of time in the batting cages at Dodger’s stadium.  I would taking batting practice in the cages during the games.”  He also learned to respect the game.  He knew if the Dodgers had lost a game, “he needed to give the players their space and stay out of the club house.”

José took the advice of his parents, players, and other baseball professionals and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Cal State Fullerton, where he also was a two time Collegiate All American and starting 2nd baseman for the 1984 National Champion Titans.  For José’s accomplishments as a baseball player, he is most proud of being a part of that special team that won the Championship, saying “I wouldn’t trade that time for anything, not even playing in the Big Leagues.  I learned what it meant to play as a team, to be part of a group working for the same goal.  It wasn’t about getting paid or being called up, it was about winning!  I learned what it takes to be a part of something bigger, knowing I had to do my job and trusting that everyone else was doing their job to come together for a common goal.  It was the best time I ever had playing baseball.” 

José did achieve his goal of following in his father’s footsteps and he did play in the Major Leagues.  José played on eleven different Minor League teams over parts of twelve seasons.  His time playing at baseball’s highest level was brief, in 19 games, he had 8 hits in 38 at-bats, resulting in a .211 batting average. He scored four runs and drove in two more.  José believes that had he been given more of an opportunity, he certainly would have had a more success as a player.  That said, he did not give any indication that he had a single regret about his playing days, “achieving my goal of playing in the Major Leagues was a great feeling.  I know that I gave it my best and where I am today is God’s plan.  The opportunity the game has given me, has allowed me to provide for my family.  Because I had my college degree, I was able to walk away from the game and pursue different careers within the game.  I didn’t have to be a player that had to keep hanging on for a paycheck.”

Before beginning his broadcasting career, José became a Sports Agent.  He recognized the he had to the chance to help Latin players in the game.  Being bilingual he was able to make the players feel comfortable.  Like José when he was a young boy, the culture in the United States is very different from the hometowns of many Latin players.  It was a similar sentiment shared with us by Josh Rawitch, Sr. VP of Communications for the Arizona Diamondbacks, “There is a level of comfort when being able to have someone you can trust, that you can communicate with in your native language.”  I am sure that young Bear will also take advantage of the opportunities being bilingual will provide him, after achieving his own goal of playing professional baseball.

After his time working as an Agent, José began his career in Sports Broadcasting.  His love for the job is undeniable, “I would not trade places with anyone.  Not with Mike Trout or Albert Pujols, I love what I do every single day, I wouldn’t trade with anyone.  I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do.”  When he spoke about his broadcasting career, José said, “I am so blessed.  My first broadcasting job, I got to cover the Angels when they won the World Series in 2002.  I was so fortunate to be able to be cover that special team.”  He spoke with a clear admiration for the 2002 team and named almost every player when asked which players on last year’s roster were his favorites.  I am sure feels just as fondly about the team this season.

A fan favorite because of his passion for the players and the game of baseball, José had this message to share, “I am a Dad and a Husband who loves spending time with my family.  I enjoying reading the word of God and am truly blessed.”  His message to the kids who are his fans, “Never give up on your dreams and set no limits for yourself.  Stay positive and do the best with the talents God has given you.  He gave you those talents for a reason.  Don’t compare yourself with anyone else, but don’t put any limits on what you can do.”

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To José from Zac, Ethan, and me, our sincerest thank you for sharing your time and your story with us.  The BakerBoys&Baseball will continue to share our baseball stories and experiences for the upcoming season.  We are not quite sure where the next story will come from, but we would still love the chance to meet with Tim Mead, the Angels Vice President of Communications.  For our friends at the Stadium, we have moved our season seats to the Angels side of the field this season, Section 111, Row N.  If you are at the stadium come say hi, share your baseball stories with us and make suggestions for the next installment.  The first two games against Joe Maddon’s  Cubbies were tough, but we believe the 2016 Angels are capable of capturing the magic the 2002 team had!  In the meantime, keep filling the in between pauses with meaningful, thoughtful moments and go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!

BakerBoys&Baseball Discover Trinity Bat Company

You will always cross home plate with Trinity Bats

You will always cross home plate with Trinity Bats

Tucked away in an unassuming commercial building on Orangethorpe in Fullerton, just a stone’s throw from The Big A, is Trinity Bat Company.  MLB players have the choice of the lumber saber that they take to battle with them and many in the game have steered away from the seasoned veterans, Louisville Slugger and Marucci, and have instead opted to do damage with bats from relative rookie, Trinity Bat Company.  The 10 year old company broke into the big leagues in 2005 when reigning MVP and Halo favorite, Vladimir Guerrero, gave them a try.  Today approximately 180 major leaguers and several hundred minor league  players swing Trinity Bats, including some of our favorites, Howie Kendrick, Hank Conger, Jimmy Rollins, Adrian Gonzalez and of course Zac’s favorite player, Mark Trumbo.  So you can understand why we jumped at the chance for an  interview and tour of the factory when given the introduction to owner, Steve McKee, by a new friend we met at the stadium, Aaron Von Oskko.

Entering the store front to Trinity you see bats adorning the walls like works of art.  We were greeted by one of Steve’s sons, Jeff McKee, and while waiting for Steve to wrap up a call, we struck up a conversation with Jeff.  Jeff had an immediate curiosity about The BakerBoys&Baseball and inquired as to the nature of our visit.  I know Zac and I don’t have the traditional look of “reporters”, as we have been met with similar inquisition when we have shown up for interviews.  We told Jeff our story and were surprised to learn of his previous working relationship with the Angels RBI League and our first interviewee, Dave Smith.  Jeff told us about his work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  The FCA is a 60 year old organization that was created to “feature professional athletes professing their Christian faith in order to change the youth culture in America”.

Steve wrapped up his call and we were called back towards his office.  In the office with Steve is his other son, Jeremy McKee.  Jeremy serves as Trinity’s Director of Operations and before we sit down with Steve, Jeremy takes us for a tour of the factory and a lesson in the bat making process.  Racks with hundreds of Ash, Birch, and Maple blanks center the factory.  Jeff explains the differences in the grains of the different types of wood and how those grains change the flex in the bat.  While all of the woods are hard, they are also very different.  Maple is the hardest and the most rigid and Ash providing the most flex, which gives it a trampoline effect.  Birch, is somewhat of a hybrid of Maple and Ash.  It is nearly as hard as Maple with a similar flex of Ash.  Jeremy let us know that Trinity has become known as the go to bat company for its Birch.

Jeremy McKee showing Zac the grain in a Birch blank and explaining how the grains affects the flex of the bat.

Jeremy McKee showing Zac the grain in a Birch blank and explaining how the grains affects the flex of the bat.

Each blank has been weighed and marked to ensure that exact specifications are met.  When a player places an order, the blanks that meet their needs are selected.  The blanks are placed onto a computer programmed cutter, where is just a few minutes the bat is formed.  The rest of the process includes shaping the knob, curving the barrel, sanding, painting, staining, and adding the decals.  Jeremy explains that at Trinity bats, all of these steps are done with precision and care by hand to ensure that the exact specifications of each player are met.   Where some larger companies may rely on technology to streamline the process and cut the cost to make each bat, the McKee’s believe every bat, whether for a major leaguer or little leaguer, go through the same handmade process to ensure that every bat that leaves the Trinity Factory is a piece of perfection.

Blanks waiting to be transformed

Blanks waiting to be transformed

Out of the factory and back into Steve’s office, we sit down and as has become his role, Zac takes the lead and starts the interview.  Steve explains the motivation for starting Trinity Bats, “Me and my sons played adult baseball and there was a company here in Fullerton that made our wooden bats and they were having a struggle and went out of business.  We were able to hire their crew and start Trinity Bats.”  In essence, Trinity Bats was born out of the bond of a father and sons and their love for baseball, a theme that has been a constant throughout the journey of the Baker Boys.  As Zac and Steve talk, it is easy to tell how sincere Steve is.  Not fazed by the 9 year old interviewer sitting across the table from him, he takes the time and care to thoughtfully answer each of Zac’s questions.

Zac with the owner of Trinity Bats, Steve McKee

Zac with the owner of Trinity Bats, Steve McKee

While Steve is a successful business man, you can tell Steve’s drive comes from his sense of family and faith.  Starting Trinity Bats on April 1, 2005, Steve proudly shared, “We were the first bat manufacturer to be approved by Major League Baseball with less than a year in business.  So, we felt pretty blessed by that.”  With a humble gratitude, Steve tells Zac about how Vladimir Guerrero became the first pro to use Trinity Bats.  “Vladdy was our very first guy and it was our very first spring.  So, we were rookies going into camp and we didn’t know that every bat manufacturer would give Vladdy like six bats to try out in spring training.  We went in and gave him one.  The clubhouse manager said that when Vladdy traveled he carried that one bat with him and shipped all the others.  So, that one bat meant a lot to him.” Without saying so directly, you can tell that one bat and that one player, meant a lot to Steve and the start for Trinity Bat company.

In a market that is dominated by familiar bat manufactures, getting players to switch companies is a challenge.  While Trinity does give bats to players to try out, in hopes of having them switching to Trinity Bats, the current roster of Trinity players is its best sales pitch.  Steve explained, “Howie Kendrick, who swings our bats is now with the Dodgers.  His teammate, A.J. Ellis tried his bat and now he swings Howie’s bat.”  Unlike other bat manufactures, Trinity Bats doesn’t want players to be obligated to use their bats as Steve told us, “Some player’s have contracts, so they have to swing a certain bat.  We don’t give out contracts.  Every one that swings our bat, swings it because they like it.”  Of the players that have made the switch to Trinity Steve said “our players have been very loyal to us.”

It is clear that the McKee’s Faith has opened some doors for them but they know in order to sustain the company’s success, “the product has to be good.”  The name of the company speaks for itself, Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  The best selling Trinity Bat model is Adrian Gonzalez’s PS 27:1.  Steve told us “Adrian wanted that bat.  He designed it and named it after his favorite bible verse.” Psalm 27:1 says “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  Tony Clark of the San Diego Padres was asked about using Trinity Bats, he said “I like what the company stands for, but they still need to have a good product and they do.”

Making a great product and having loyal customers aren’t the only pillars for Trinity Bat Company.  They have a clear idea of how they want their players to feel.  Steve shared, “my goal for this business, we want to treat every player the same, from little leaguers to major leaguers.  We want the little leaguer to walk out of here feeling like the major leaguer.  You will get the same treatment Adrian Gonzalez or Mark Trumbo gets.  When you call us and want to order another bat, we have your specs on file just as we do for Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Trumbo.  Our customer service, I would say is next to none.  We want it to be that way and we are very proud of that.  We just care and we are not in it for a one time sale.  We want to make sure our customers feel really good and are happy.  We want to be a part of your game.”

Clearly proud of the reputation and success of Trinity Bat Company, Steve is excited to be in the business of baseball, “We still get excited when we turn the T.V. on and see guys swinging our bats.  It brings out the little kid in us.”  With all the success and great players using Trinity Bats, there is a glaring hole on the roster of Trinity players.  When Zac asked which current Angels were swinging Trinity Bats, with a bit of pain Steve exclaimed, “I don’t have one!”  Clearly wanting to change that, Steve said, “We have our work cut out for us next season, to get more Angels.”  Or, as Zac suggested hopefully bring Mark Trumbo back.

We ended the visit by having Zac place an order for his very own custom bat.  It was no surprise which model he chose, the same PS 27:1 that Mark Trumbo swings, albeit a bit smaller in size.  He opted for the barrel to be the same ebony color of the bat Mark used to swing when he was with the Angels, but switched up the handle color and made it black.  The Trinity logo, bat model, and his own inscription of his name and new jersey number: Zac Baker #35 will adorn the barrel in gold.  I will add the picture of the bat to the post once we pick it up.  A sincere thank you to Steve, Jeff, and Jeremy McKee for sharing their time and story with us.  A new addition to the conclusion of our articles and in the promotion of social media, here are the twitter handles of those featured in this article: Trinity Bat Company @TrinityBatco, Jeff McKee @McKeeJeff, Adrian Gonzalez @AdrianTitan23, Mark Trumbo @Mtrumbo44, Vladimir Guerrero @VladGuerrero27, Hank Conger @PandaCrusher35, Los Angeles Angels @Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers @ Dodgers, San Diego Padres @Padres, and last but not least The BakerBoys&Baseball @sbaker101.

Zac Baker and Mark Trumbo's Trinity Bats PS 27:1's

Zac Baker and Mark Trumbo’s Trinity Bats PS 27:1’s

Zac taking some practice swings with his new Zac Baker Model Trinity Bat

Zac taking some practice swings with his new Zac Baker Model Trinity Bat

The next installment from The BakerBoys&Baseball will be out soon.  We had a great interview with Jose Mota @JoseMota05.  We were ambitious and brought along a guest interviewer, who is one of Zac’s teammates and good friend, Ethan Geiss.  Ethan at 9 years old speaks Spanish.  We did the interview in both English and Spanish.  That said, yo solomente hablo un pocito Espanol, so it is going to take me a bit longer to transcribe the interview and write the next article.  In the mean time, keep filling the in between pauses with meaningful, thoughtful moments and go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!

Zac and the owner of Trinity Bat Company, Steve McKee with one of Mark Trumbo's Birch PS 27:1s that died a hero.

Zac and the owner of Trinity Bat Company, Steve McKee with one of Mark Trumbo’s Birch PS 27:1s that died a hero.

BakerBoys&Baseball Share The Trout Net Team Story

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The BaseballBoy and the TroutNet Crew with A.J. holding the Grand Slam ball

Back on July 22nd we closed the BakerBoys&Baseball installment by professing you should know The TroutNet TeamMike Trout was already well aware of who they were, but to make sure you did too, he decided to put an original marketing stamp on the father and son duo of Jonathan and A.J. Plaza.  Trout launched a grand slam into Section 240 of the right field stands on July 26th against the Texas Rangers and wouldn’t you know it, right into the net that he and Kole Calhoun have made a contest of throwing balls into after warming up between innings.  With his typical flair of rising to the moment, one might suggest he hit it there on purpose.

 

Earlier this the season my good friend and fellow Halo Loyalist, Allison Abbott, professed you have to meet The TroutNet guys, saying “you will love what they are doing out in right field”.  In all honesty, I had no idea how right she would be.  When I finally meet up with Jonathan and A.J. and learned their story, I knew right away I would include a blurb about them at the end of one of the BakerBoys&Baseball installments.   Jonathan and A.J. decided to come slum it in Section 124 during the game that day.  After sitting and talking awhile, we thought it would be fun to take a lap around the stadium and go out to where the action happens, Section 240 to give Zac a shot at catching a ball in the TroutNet.

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The BaseballBoy and Allison Abbott

After settling in at the top of the 7th, Zac and I saw first hand how engaged Trout and Calhoun were with the TroutNet phenomenon.  There was a genuine joy visible on the faces of these baseball heroes.  That joy was matched by the fans all in attendance on this hot Thursday afternoon sitting out in the Right Field stands, as Trout and Calhoun took turns trying to hit the TroutNet after warming up before the top half of each inning.  For the record, the tandem went 0-3 while we were out there.  The three fans that caught the errant throws didn’t mind one bit as they were going home with a precious souvenir and a great story about the throw that missed the TroutNet.  Though Jonathan has dozens of recorded shots that were nothing but net.

Mike Trout looking for his familiar target, The TroutNet

Mike Trout looking for his familiar target, The TroutNet

Zac and A.J. quickly hit it off.  It never ceases to amaze me how baseball removes age from friendships.  Zac and A.J. decided to have a catch right behind the post game set, out by the big hats in front of the stadium.  They didn’t seem to mind that the thousands of fans leaving the stadium would interrupt their game, and instead just kept throwing the ball back and forth as though they were the only ones out there.  The game that day was a tough one for the Halos offense as former Halo hurler, Ervin Santana, held the Angels to just four hits and eight shutout innings as the Minnesota Twins blanked our team 3-0.  While the Angels didn’t come away with a W as we had hoped that day, we came away with new friends.

Baseball doesn't know age, Zac and A.J. new buddies!

Baseball doesn’t know age, Zac and A.J. new buddies!

The original net was a father’s design to help get his son noticed amongst the thousands of fans at the ball park in hopes of getting a ball for his boy from his baseball hero, Mike Trout.  If you read the original BakerBoys&Baseball installment that tells our story, you know why I found an instant appreciation and respect for the Plazas.  That has sense dramatically evolved, even before the national attention draped on the humble duo, Jonathan and A.J. started the #TroutNetGiveAway.  Essentially, recognizing the joy baseball fans, especially kids, get from having a ball tossed up from the Center and Right Fielder that patrol the Big A outfield was something they knew needed to be shared.  The select random fans, and occasionally yes even grown folk too, to take a turn with the Trout Net and now also The RedRojoRing.  I am sure this is what has endured the Trout Net Team to the fans, media, and big league ball players too!

Trout Net and Rojo Ring

As it turned out, I waited a bit too long to tell the story I wanted, because after July 26th, you would have to be living under a rock not to know about The TroutNet team now.  Jonathan and AJ came over to the house after the famous Grand Slam into the TroutNet and Jonathan’s phone was blowing up as though he was the one hitting the big fly, not the one in the stands catching it in his simple, yet fantastic creation.  Their story has touched many and a few of their great moments have been shared by all of the local media outlets, as well as the national attention by the big boys, ESPN, Fox Sports, and MLB Network.  Countless interviews have led to many more great and memorable moments for Jonathan and A.J.  It turns out, some advice I gave Jonathan after having first met him rang true, “Good things happen to good people”.  So instead of me taking my word smith approach to tell their story, I think it would he only fitting that I let Jonathan share it in his own words:

TroutNet!

Alexander J Plaza is my son. He is the sole reason why the TroutNet was born. He embarked on his baseball career early this spring 2015. He loves the game like no other, from the moment he took his first steps, he’s had a bat, a glove and a baseball. As we approached our Opening Day 2015 at the Big A, my son had already begun his Tee Ball season with Garden Grove Pony Baseball. He played for the Toronto Blue Jays. I was a little upset knowing he wouldn’t be sporting his favorite team, The Angels. During our offseason we watched nothing but Trout Highlights, his best catches, his stolen bases and his Home Runs. My son loves Mike, he might love him more than me. He emulates his style of game and puts it to good use out on the diamond.

Opening Day 2015 at the Big A was around the corner. I wanted to make something for AJ. A sign, a poster, a something. I wanted to make something original. Something that nobody had done. Mike Trout had just won the AL MVP. I wanted him to notice my son and hopefully toss a baseball to him. My son would be so happy if I could get him a Trout baseball I thought. I kept working on the design on paper, I kept putting it off every weekend. Not knowing the stadium regulations regarding the TroutNet that exists today, I made a poster sized TroutNet. It was 20” tall & 28” across. It said “TroutNet!” with an MVP logo, the #27, Mike Trout’s back shot when he hit for the Cycle and last but not least a circle with a net 11” in diameter. I finished late into the night, about 3 am. I showered, slept and went to work. I requested a half day for opening day, little did I know of the events that would transpire after that day.

We arrive at the Big A, its packed with fans, its loud, its baseball season and its beautiful. Walking in everybody said what a catchy poster, I laughed and said thank you! We sat in our seats Section 240, Row A, seats 11 & 12. The ceremonies began, old glory was covering the field and I felt happy. I felt honored to be home with my son, I got a bit sentimental due to my service for my country, since the day I left the Marine Corps I told myself to live my life in a positive way and honor the lives of those who aren’t here today. The National Anthem was sung and the Super fortress bomber flew over.

The players hit the field and there was Mike and Kole warming up playing catch. Calhoun throws the ball to the ball boy and Trout makes his way to centerfield where we give a standing ovation chanting MVP. AJ and I are in the corner of section 240 row A and the bushes. I hold AJ up and our sign with the other. Trout looks and smiles. He acknowledged our sign with a chest/fist bump. The Kansas City Royals are in town and we all know how we feel about them. I wanted payback for last year’s ALDS sweep. The first inning is over and the Royals are up 1 – 0.

Our Angels are up, Kole grounds out, Trout grounds out and Pujols pops out in foul territory, inning over. Our Halos hit the field, Trout and Kole warming up again playing catch like they usually do between innings. They finish warming up and Trout keeps the ball and he’s coming our way. I’m standing with AJ on my left and the TroutNet on my right! Trout comes by and under hands it, Swish! Into the TroutNet!!! The crowd applauds our MVP and congratulates us.

AJ is so happy, I’m happy and the TroutNet mission was accomplished. My son Alexander got his first ever Mike Trout baseball. Prior to the home stand taking place, the Angels posted on their Instagram the “#HappyHalos” contest. I’m posting my photo of AJ with his ball and the TroutNet! I make all my hash tags and add the “#HappyHalos”. Again, little did I know what would become of that night. The game ends and we drop the opener 2-4. A week later I get a “DM-Direct Message” on my Instagram from the Angels. They said we had won the “#HappyHalo” contest and they’d like to my information to send us our prize. I was excited for the prize AJ was to receive. As we prepared for the next home stand and Star Wars Night I posted a picture from Opening Day of my son AJ holding his TroutNet. It said “Catch us with our #TroutNet tonight against the A’s!!! Go @Angels!!!” Following with lots of hash tags for our boys in red.

Star Wars Night came and we were ready! AJ was “Darth Trout”, he had the look of “Darth Maul” and was wearing his Foam Trout Hat, you heard right, wearing his Trout Foam Hat. I cut holes on the sides and he wore it. We sat in 240 again, excited for our game. Trout sees us again, smiles and throws another baseball at his TroutNet. My son was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe that Mike would do it again. Now AJ and I had a Trout Baseball, mission accomplished x2. I post the video of AJ talking about the Trout ball and we go home, again, not thinking of what we had just started.

A day later everything changed, I was out having lunch during my work day. Ordering chick-fil-a when my phone started vibrating non-stop. I was being tagged and messaged on Instagram. Why?? I said. I read the comments on my page, “MIKE TROUT JUST REPOSTED AJ’s Photo with his TROUTNET!!”. A sudden rush of adrenaline hit me, I was nervous, excited and freaking out. I click on his profile and there it is! Mike posted my sons photo holding his TroutNet just like the comments said. He wrote “I see you out there bud!!! Lol” I call AJ immediately and tell him that Trout sees him and that he posted a picture of him. My son was so happy, 3years old and smiling over FaceTime made my life. The look on his face was priceless. I told him I loved him and carried on with my day. I went back to work, printed out “thanks for the repost Trout” and bought tickets for that same day game.

We go to our section, what will soon be our new home away from home. It’s the last game against the A’s. Trout comes out sees and acknowledges our message and we scream “Thank you”. He keeps the ball and tosses it a 3rd time striking our TroutNet. This is the moment I realized it would never be the same, a father, a son and baseball. The moments we shared with Mike would forever change the atmosphere at Right Center Field as the TroutNet was here to stay. I post our picture once more on social media and Mike responds to it by saying “No Prob!!” I couldn’t believe it. Following that catch, I came up with something special something that would change our lives and the lives around us at the Big A.

We had three baseballs, one for AJ, one for me and the third ball. I came up with the “#TroutNetGiveAway” on Instagram. I announced a winner by the name of Bryce Burke. He was about one and a half years old at the time (now 2). I had followed his father Ryan who takes beautiful pictures at the Big A and decided to share that with him. From this moment on every baseball we caught would go to Halo fan, my son would choose the winner and we would post the winner on our Instagram “TroutNet27”. I wanted to share these moments of our lives with others, again going back to the promise I made myself when I left the corps. TroutNet 2 debuted a week after TroutNet 1, the net hole was much bigger, giving us a better chance of catching the ball. These were the last poster type TroutNets, the next would change the game forever.

As the games progressed we attended more and more games. Every time Trout would score into the TroutNet we would have a “#TroutNetGiveAway Winner. Then I decided to change up the TroutNet to its original concept. I was taking that leap of faith because I wasn’t familiar with the stadiums regulations. TroutNet 3 debuted against the Rockies in May. It was what I originally wanted to bring on Opening Day. It was red, 24” across in diameter with 6” TROUTNET! Letters across the top, a 2 on the left and a 7 on the right. It was big hit with the fans. The game began and Trout loved it. Immediately said thanks with his fist/chest bump over his heart saying thank you. The inning passed, there was Trout lobbing a baseball from the outfield into the TroutNet, and again a new “#TroutNetGiveAway” Winner was announced that night. Later I added two pictures of Trout’s leaping for a baseball below the 2 and the 7, giving it a great look.

As the season continued we attended more games, more games meant more “#TroutNetGiveAway” winners. TroutNet 4 was a bit extreme, it was three 15” nets tied up together in one straight line, it was about 4ft tall definitely not in compliance. I was able to get in one time until one day when TroutNet 3 and 4 were going to appear in one game security told me “No more TroutNets”. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t believe our beloved stadium would ban our sharing experience with our fans in right center field. I left the TroutNets and proceeded to my seat TroutNet-less. I wasn’t happy, I was upset, sad and bit furious. I couldn’t believe we wouldn’t be able to share this experience with our fans. As I was walking out that night, someone in security told me to me to contact a man that would change the TroutNet forever.  His name is Brian Sanders.

Mr. Sanders is the Senior Director of Ballpark Operations. He was the one I contacted when my TroutNets were banned. I left him a voicemail and he replied quickly. I spoke with him regarding our mission out in right center field and he approved it. He gave the green light on everything but TroutNet 4, I agreed with him, it was a bit too much. So I took a net off and debut the TroutNet Mini. A perfect sized TroutNet for my son AJ to hold. It was brilliant. This was going to be the best ever. AJ catching his own ball to give away, and sure enough, the next game we attended with the TroutNet Mini, Trout makes it into the TroutNet Mini. A warm thank you to Mr. Brian Sanders.

We’re almost caught up, it’s been a long ride. The games come and go and more #TroutNetGiveAway winners are announced. The look on their faces is priceless. I love how my son AJ gets upset when Trout misses the net, not because he wants a ball, but because he wants to give it away! So proud of him. When AJ is not at the games I let the fans hold the TroutNet, I want them to experience it all. For them to feel the rush that we get doing it, something they’ll never forget and that’s what it’s all about.

Coming to the All Star Break we had lots of fans, all from the TroutNet, it was amazing to share that with them. During a regular workday within the break a follower tagged me in a photo posted by Instagram. A rep for them was interviewing Mike Trout, Instagram posted a picture of his locker room. They talked about his office, his family and his fans. Trout responded to the question about his fans by talking about my son. The post goes like this:

“ Twenty-three-year-old Mike Trout, is baseballs reigning American League MVP, who signed a $144.5 million contract in 2014. And yet, his pictures reveal a regular guy who loves his job with its locker room “office,” his family and his fans _ many of whom make him creative signs. One child made a sign with a built-in net that Mike tosses a ball into every home game that’s known as –what else? – the “Trout Net!” What’s cool is he always finds a new fan to give a ball to,” the superstar says.  Again I called AJ and told him Trout was thinking of him even at the All Star game where weren’t even attending.

Upon reading Mikes kind words I decided to make a new TroutNet, an MVP type TroutNet. TroutNet 5 is one of a kind, it’s a beautiful 28” TroutNet that has Red LED’s in it. It debuts after the All Star game in Cincinnati. The fans loved it, bright red LED’s showing our teams colors. Trout loved it, but he didn’t know it lit up, but that didn’t matter he still scored a ball into the TroutNet. The stadium lights dim them badly; you can see the Red Halo when you’re walking around the big A or at night behind the FoxSportsWest booth hosting the Angels Post Game Show. So that night, AJ and I took a photo with Jose Mota. AJ loves Jose Mota, he’s like his favorite Uncle. I posted the picture of AJ and Jose Mota on Instagram yelling “Light That Baby UP” Angels Win Walk off!!! Moments later our lives would change again.

Mike reposts my sons photo with Jose Mota and the LED TroutNet 5. He writes, “Nice, #LTBU”. He tags me and follows me back on Instagram! Boom! My phone blows up! Message after message after message. Followers after followers after followers. I showed AJ the picture that Mike had reposted and he was going wild. He was so happy. I was happy, the TroutNet dream had begun. That post kind of put us out there, people finally knew who the TroutNet guys were. I decided to call us The TroutNetCrew and every fan that was a #TroutNetGiveAway winner or fans of the TroutNet were part of the TroutNetFamily. With family means more people and by people I mean Players.

The Flying Rojo is our Angels SuperStar Right Fielder Kole Calhoun. He has joined the fun with Mike and trying to score in the TroutNet. I believe they have a competition. Who knows who wins what when one loses. They have fun in the outfield and we’re glad to be part of it, because again, it’s for the fans. We’re just setting up the arrangements via the TroutNet. Then one Sunday afternoon my life changed forever, our TroutNet went viral, national and Worldwide.

On July 26, 2015 something incredible happened. Something I couldn’t possibly imagine. The Dream of the TroutNet came true. To Catch a Home Run by our favorite player, Mike Trout. The stage was set, bases loaded and trout is at the plate, I told the boys in front of me with TroutNet 3 if I could get it back. I had this feeling, this hunch that something was going to happen. The count is 3-2 and Trout hits one deep into Right Center Field!!! It’s coming my way, I leap up and it lands in the TroutNet! The entire section explodes!!! High fives, screaming, more high fives, more screaming!!! It was heaven on earth for that short amount of time. it was incredible, what are the chances of that? The odds had to have been against me, but it happened. Not just a Home Run, but a Grand Slam!!! Again, my phone blew up!!!! Family, friends, and Instagramers flooded my phone with messages!!!! Major League Baseball interviewed me and posted a picture of me saying “Bring a Trout Net, catch a @MikeTrout grand slam.  AWESOME.” FoxSportsWest came by had me on the Angels Post Game Show. It was an experience I’ll never forget. So many media highlights, I wish I could name them all, from SportCenter, FoxSportsLive, MLB Quickpitch, ESPN shows, Online media markets. Our Orange County Register published an article of my son and I. Unfortunately, AJ wasn’t there when I caught it but he arrived moments later. Just in time for the pictures.

Two weeks later fast-forwarding to today I got to say it’s been an unbelievable experience, we love the fans of the TroutNet, we love our team, and we love Mike Trout & Kole Calhoun. Since then I’ve mounted a Go Pro to TroutNet 5, made TroutNetVision, a view for fans to see the ball into action. Mike and Kole are making fans the happiest they could ever be through the TroutNet and that’s where our next dream comes into plan. Mike Trout’s Birthday was August 7. I personally made him his very own TroutNet for him to own, along with 2 TroutNets for his niece and nephew. Pink one for her, Red one for him. I hope they love them like our fans love ours. So here we are meeting great people who are lovers of the game like us. We hope to bring a TroutNet to your home in the future, so that you may live the moments that took our breath and that we will never forget.

With Love & Respect,

Alexander & Jonathan Plaza

“TroutNet Creators”

There is not a chance that I could have told that story any better.  Every time I have been at the stadium with Jonathan and also at C.J. Wilson’s charity event, fans stop to talk with Jonathan and ask to take their picture with the TroutNet.  Jonathan always obliges, even in the middle of a conversation.  He recognizes that though the TroutNet is his creation that he started for A.J., it has grown to be a link between the fans and our baseball heroes.  True to the humble, generous, and respectful qualities I have grown to know in Jonathan, he shares his bounty with fellow fans.

Jonathan and A.J. have created a buzz and excitement at the ballpark, not normally seen at The Big A.  If you are headed to the Big A to cheer on our favorite team and have tickets in the Right Field Pavilion, look for Jonathan and A.J., you may just be the lucky fan to try your luck at catching a ball in the TroutNet or RedRojoRing!  Special Spoiler Alert for those of you who stuck around to read the whole article, take notice I didn’t say Section 240 in Right Field.  I have a breaking scoop, Mike Trout has encouraged The TroutNet Team to mix up the section and share the wealth.  For now, I think that will be the Right Field Pavilion, but stay tuned as anything can happen, just ask A.J. and Zac:

Trout Net with Trouty

The TroutNet Team and Trouty

2015 © Angels Baseball LP. All Rights Reserved.

Zac meets Trout and hands off his interview request 2015 © Angels Baseball LP. All Rights Reserved.

As has been the case of late, we have no idea where the inspiration for the next installment from the BakerBoys&Baseball come from.  We have several interview requests out there, including requests hand delivered by the BaseballBoy to Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun.  Or, we might make some more new friends at the stadium that turn out to be the next story, just like the Plazas, either way we hope to have something fun to share with all of you. Enjoy some of our favorite TroutNet photos below, you just might be in one of them!   In the mean time, keep filling the in between pauses with meaningful, thoughtful moments and go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!

Jose Mota loves the TroutNet Team

Jose Mota loves the TroutNet Team

Angels Players posing with Jonathan and the TroutNet at C.J.Wilson's Bats&Brushes Charity Event

Angels Players posing with Jonathan and the TroutNet at C.J.Wilson’s Bats&Brushes Charity Event

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Game Gallery: August 18, 2015: White Sox vs Angels

2015 © Angels Baseball LP. All Rights Reserved.

2015 © Angels Baseball LP. All Rights Reserved.

The BaseballBoy got to steal 3rd tonight and get down on the field for BP. Check out the picture of Zac and Trout! Thank you Halo Way for capturing such a great moment!

The Halo Way

Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols homer to lift the Angels past the White Sox 5-3.

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C.J. Wilson’s Annual Charity Event Bats & Brushes

Our Buddy Jonathan of the TroutNet team and the Angels Players

Our Buddy, Jonathan Plaza of the TroutNet team and the Angels Players

Hanging with your favorite baseball players, all you can eat food (including cookies and ice cream sundaes), and unlimited video games at the ESPN Zone all while supporting a great cause: Truly Heaven on Earth for the BaseballBoy!  This event was so much fun.  That said, having Zac get to speak with Robert Champagne was especially rewarding!  Robert is the proud father of the inspiration for C.J.’s charity, Micah. Micah is the young man who’s poem we quoted in the initial BakerBoys&Baseball Blog.  Not lost amid all of the fun, is that this great evening and all those who came out tonight support it, including C.J.’s Angel’s teammates: C.J. Cron, Kole Calhoun, Matt Shoemaker, Cory Rasmus, Cam Bedrosian, and Andrew Heaney, were here to help raise awareness and financial support to help those who suffer from hemophilia, like Micah.  Here is Micah’s poem for those of you who missed it:

I am a boy, who cannot clot,
And that is why I get shots.
Because of my port,
I can’t play sports.
But I still have fun and like to run
And play in the sun.
I also need help to grow,
And sometimes I like to be slow
But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to play in the snow.
As long as I do what the doctors say,
I will always be able to play!

We have been lucky enough to attend C.J.’s event the past two years and we encourage everyone to come on out and show your support and love.  Here is the link to C.J.’s charity: http://cjwcc.org/.  The event happens once a year, but you can help whenever and however you are able.  This is straight from C.J.’s website:

C.J. Wilson’s Children’s Charities raises funds, awareness, and most importantly, youth participation in community service and charitable giving that will directly benefit children and their families affected by chronic life-threatening illnesses, or dealing with financial and social challenges. To encourage a more compassionate and responsible society, we especially focus on inspiring local children, teens and young adults to be involved in charity at an early age, making it entertaining and personally rewarding.”
TheBaseballBoy and C.J. Wilson at the C.J. Wilson Children Charities annual  Bats and Brushes event

TheBaseballBoy and C.J. Wilson at the C.J. Wilson Children Charities annual Bats and Brushes event

Go to The Hemophilia Federation of America, http://www.hemophiliafed.org/, to find out how you can get involved.  Thank you C.J. for being an example of how to get involved and showing how P.M.A (Positive Mental Attitude) can change the world!
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The smile says it all! The BaseballBoy right after getting to talk to C.J. Wilson

Normally, we close with what you can expect the next time you hear from The BakerBoys&Baseball and I am sure it will be something fun to share with you all, but we don’t have a set plan other that seeing all of our friends at the ball park very soon.  In the mean time, keep filling the in between pauses with meaningful, thoughtful moments and go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!
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The BaseballBoy getting ready for C.J. Wilson’s Charity event Bats & Brushes

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The BaseballBoy and Matt Shoemaker rocking the same style

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The BaseballBoy and his favorite Halo Reporter, Alex Curry

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The BakerBoys&Baseball

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The BaseballBoy and Cam Bedrosian

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The BaseballBoy and The HeanDog

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The Baseball Boy and C.J. Cron

The BaseballBoy and The Angels Strike Force Girls

The BaseballBoy and The Angels Strike Force Girls