The Slugger: Mark Trumbo
Rickett & Sones
The phone rings and the caller I.D. contains the 714 area code Orange Countians know so well. But the friendly fellow on the line is not in his Anaheim birthplace, Orange hometown or anywhere in Southern California. He's in Peoria, Arizona.
"I'm getting situated out here, getting acclimated," reports Mark Trumbo from the spring-training camp of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who acquired the former Angels slugger in a three-team trade last December. "It's a good team; our first game is tomorrow, so I'm excited about that. It's been really nice so far."
Later, when told it seemed logical to at least one Angels fan that the team would have built its future around him and Mike Trout, Trumbo says, "It would have been a fairy tale if I'd played my whole career there." The 28-year-old describes himself as a lifelong fan of the Halos.
"I was a huge Angels fan growing up," Trumbo says. "I would go to all the games that I could, usually with my dad. I would sit near the right field line and watch Tim Salmon as a kid."
But the hometown hero never felt any job security in Anaheim. Selected by the Halos in the 18th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball draft, the Villa Park High School graduate was called up to the bigs in the roster expansion of September 2010, finished second in 2011 American League Rookie of the Year voting and became an All-Star in 2012. He hit 95 homers over the past three seasons, making the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder one of the most productive power hitters in the game.
And yet, every winter, his name would be mentioned in trade rumors. Trumbo got so accustomed to it that he figured out from the tone of his agent's voice how serious other teams were about acquiring the lifetime .250 hitter who played at first and third and in the outfield while an Angel. When it was obvious a certain team wanted Trumbo, he would think about playing in that city, for that franchise. Phoenix and the Diamondbacks were never on his mind.
"Nowhere had I read anything about the Diamondbacks being interested," Trumbo says of the swirling trade rumors. "This is never a place I even gave a second thought; I thought they had no voids to fill. But that's the way things happen sometimes. Maybe that's the way it should happen."
The way it happened for him the night of Dec. 9 was his agent called to inform him "stuff was heating up" with the D-Backs, Trumbo recalls. "I'm used to trade talks, but he said, 'Hey, this one is pretty serious; don't be surprised if something materializes tomorrow.' And it did."
Close the book on the fairy tale, which is fiction. Baseball is a cold, hard business. While a longtime Trout-Trumbo foundation for the Anaheim franchise might have made sense to fans, this new D-Back can understand why the Angels moved him. "Mike's a phenom, certainly the best player I've ever played with," Trumbo says of "Trouty." "With what he's done at this age, I'm sure the Angels will have him as a cornerstone for years to come. . . . As far as me, I knew they had pitching deficiencies. There were only a couple of [trade] options with me, Peter [Bourjos] and Howie [Kendrick]. It ended up Peter and I were the ones who got traded." (Bourjos is now a St. Louis Cardinal.)
In February, the D-Backs avoided arbitration with Trumbo by agreeing to a $4.8 million, one-year contract. Like any player, he would like to be locked into a multi-year deal in a city he feels comfortable in. He can explore that as a free agent after the season, unless Arizona entices him to stay.
"In some ways, it is in your hands," Trumbo says of his future. "In other ways, you just have to keep going. I just have to go out there and continue to prove myself so I can bring as much to the table as I can."
Who knows? He may wind up back home someday.
"You never know what will happen in this game," Trumbo says. "Right now, I am in a really, really good place. It's nice to be somewhere where you are wanted. Hopefully, the Diamondbacks will continue to make me feel very wanted. I will play hard and stay very committed to working hard."
Helping him be the best D-Back he can be is manager Kirk Gibson. "Gibby, as we call him, has been great so far," Trumbo says. "He made a great effort to reach out to me. We have a conversation every day, which is amazing when you consider he's having 80-plus of these a day. We usually talk about generalities, what I like, how I operate best. But he also gives me tips in the outfield, as a former outfielder." (Trumbo is penciled in to play left field.)
"So far, it has been nothing but positive," he says of the Arizona experience. "I'm extremely excited to get this thing going."
He does expect one change in switching leagues. "I know from some of the inner-league games that the National League pitchers are more apt to come at guys," Trumbo says. "The pitch counts dictate how long they will be in the game. If a pitcher's spot is coming up [in the batting order], and he has a high pitch count, he'll be a tad more aggressive [on the mound]. But it's the same [game] as far as what I'm doing."
An open book during nearly the entire conversation, Trumbo only got cagey when asked if he'll maintain a home in Orange County. "I have options when I come home, but I purchased a home in Phoenix, Arizona," he says. "I'll spend quite a bit of the winter in Orange County."
He knows the greater Phoenix area well because the Angels' spring-training home is in Tempe, and the rookie league team plays in Mesa. But Trumbo is already thinking of everyday haunts in Orange County he'll miss.
"My dad and I would go to Ricardo's [Don Jose Mexican Cafe] on Katella—sometimes before Angels games, sometimes just for fun," he says. "Wahoo's is a big favorite of mine; I go there quite a bit. Being from Orange, I would go to most of the places in the Orange Circle. Felix's has the best tres leche cake I've ever eaten, although I probably shouldn't eat too much of it."
He'd watch weekend football games at spots by the beach, such as Mutt Lynch's in Newport Beach. ("Lots of my buddies go there.") The fan of "all things rock & roll, '90s hip-hop, and a sprinkle of country" would usually drive to Los Angeles for live shows, with some exceptions. "I caught quite a few cool shows at the Observatory," Trumbo says of the Santa Ana venue.
He's looking forward to next winter and checking out his friend Jeff Chon's new nightclub, the Wayfarer, which was formerly Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa. Then there are his buddies in Killin Time, who Trumbo is seen in a YouTube video jamming with on guitar to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" at the RANCH in Anaheim. "I'll definitely miss those guys," he says.
He already misses the guys practicing 22 miles away in Tempe. "I miss all of them," Trumbo says of the Angels, "especially the guys I came up with, like Pete and Hank Conger."
Though Trumbo is a little older than 26-year-old Conger, "we moved at about the same pace for a long time. We would work out a lot together, and I'd see him every day," he says. "I have special bonds with Weave [pitching ace Jered Weaver] and Howie; I played with those guys so long. That's the cool thing about playing this game—the friendships that develop. We're together for an extremely long season."
He'll keep tabs on more than the D-Backs this season.
"I'll follow those guys and root for the team, as long as we are not going head-to-head," Trumbo says of the Anaheim squad. "I will be an Angels fan always."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts