You can come home again, even after you've signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract extension with a baseball team on the other side of the country. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is living proof of that after he was welcomed to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Tuesday night with a standing ovation, mostly led by the approximately 8,000 residents from his hometown in nearby Millville, New Jersey who took over the ballpark.
Busload after busload full of Millville residents made the 45-mile drive to participate in what officially became known as "Millville Night" in Philadelphia, and each fan that came for the ride was there to see the hometown hero inflict some damage on the nearest major league team. To the Phillies credit, they embraced the takeover, not only by naming the night in Millville's honor, but also by showing a video tribute to the town before the game and inviting current mayor Michael Santiago to throw out the first pitch.
"We're looking to shake The Bank," Tim Shannon, former Millville mayor and longtime family friend, said when asked what the reaction will be when Trout comes to bat in the opener of the two-game series.
"This is getting to be like a fever pitch around here. I'm telling you, I get chills thinking about it, because the people are going to be that pumped up. They're that excited, that they're going to let out a cheer for that young man, just to let him know how proud of him we are, and what he's done and what he means to us."
If the Bank wasn't shaking, it was probably close to it. Even Philadelphia fans joined in the ovation out of respect for Trout, which is often difficult to earn in the always passionate and often defiant sports town, but that just speaks to what Trout has already achieved as a 22-year-old major leaguer. It was a special moment to witness, and certainly a special moment for Trout to be a part of.
As many as 8,000 of Millville's 28,000 residents were scheduled to load onto buses and into their cars to make the drive to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday to see Trout make his Philadelphia-area debut.
"I love the support, it means a lot, coming from a small town,'' Trout said. "Scouts doubted me. They doubted the East Coast. This is something special.''
At this point, the extra attention doesn't bother Trout too much, but it comes at a time when perhaps he'd like to have his full attention on baseball. He entered play on Tuesday mired in a 6 for 43 slump that dates back to April 29, and only managed a single in five trips during the Angels 4-3 victory. Even sleeping in his own bed at his parents home on Monday couldn't help him shake free, but a breakthrough is coming eventually. The Phillies just hope it's elsewhere.
Struggles aside, his hometown couldn't be prouder or more honored to witness his unofficial return home. It's a night they'll always treasure, because they all witnessed and celebrated Trout's rise togehter.
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