Published — Wednesday 14 November 2012
Last update 14 November 2012 6:48 am
NEW YORK: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were teammates on the Scottsdale Scorpions last fall. The outfielders arrived in the major leagues on the same April day this year, both played in the All-Star game and they won Rookie of the Year awards a half-hour apart Monday, the vanguard of baseball’s next generation.
The 21-year-old Trout was a unanimous pick as the youngest AL rookie winner, and the 20-year-old Harper edged Arizona pitcher Wade Miley 112 points to 105 to become the second-youngest winner of the NL honor.
“It’s pretty neat,” said Trout, the son of former Minnesota minor leaguer Jeff Trout.
For the first time, players learned the voting results when they were announced on television.
“My heart was beating a little bit,” Harper said.
Trout, who turned 21 on Aug. 7, received all 28 first-place votes from the AL panel of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The Los Angeles Angels center fielder was the eighth unanimous AL pick and the first since Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria in 2008.
There could be more to come, too. Trout is among five finalists for AL MVP and is considered the chief challenger to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera for that award, which will be announced Thursday.
“It would just top it off,” Trout said.
Trout hit .326, second-best in the league to Cabrera’s .330, with 30 homers and 83 RBIs, and he led the majors with 129 runs and 49 steals. He joined Ted Williams, Mel Ott and Alex Rodriguez as the only players to hit .320 or higher with 30 or more homers in seasons they started as a 20-year-old.
Trout received the maximum 140 points. Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was second with 63, followed by Texas pitcher Yu Darvish (46), who joined Trout as the only players listed on every ballot.
Detroit second baseman Lou Whitaker had been the youngest AL winner in 1978, but he was 3 months, 5 days older than Trout on the day he took home the award.
In addition to Trout and Longoria, the only other unanimous AL winners were Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Tim Salmon, Sandy Alomar Jr., Mark McGwire and Carlton Fisk.
Trout’s father made it to Double-A as an infielder with the Twins in the mid-1980s and watched his son build a career growing up in New Jersey, where the seasons are short and cold.
“He went out and did it and endured it,” Jeff Trout said.
Added mom Debbie: “All the hard work paid off.”
Trout, taken by the Angels with the 25th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft, still lives at home with his parents during the offseason. The award will join others in the family house.
“He gets a lot of good home cooking,” Jeff Trout said.
Trout spent some time in the majors last year but still retained his rookie status. He began this season in the minors and made his first big league appearance this year on April 28 — the day of Harper’s major league debut.
Trout was on a flight from Salt Lake City to Cleveland when he saw on Twitter that Harper was being called up the same day.
Harper turned 20 on Oct. 16 and has been hyped for years. When he was just 16, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “CHOSEN ONE.”
“He’s been put on the spotlight since he was 15 years old,” Trout said.
The Washington Nationals outfielder got 16 of 32 first-place votes from the NL panel. Miley was second with 12 first-place votes, followed by Cincinnati slugger Todd Frazier with three firsts and 45 points. Harper appeared on every ballot, and Bill Center of U-T San Diego was the only voter who didn’t include Miley.
Harper was the top pick in the 2010 amateur draft and batted .270 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs as Washington brought postseason play to the nation’s capital for the first time since 1933. Only Tony Conigliaro (24) hit more home runs as a teenager.
“Every little kid’s dream is to be a big league ballplayer or a doctor or a firefighter or whatever everybody wants to be,” Harper said. “That was my dream and I wanted to make that dream come true as quickly as possible.” At 20 years, 27 days on Monday, he was 24 days older than New York Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden when he won the NL award in 1984.
“This game is unbelievable. I love it with everything I’ve got,” Harper said, “and I’m going to play every single day like it’s my last.”
And the admiration of Harper and Trout is mutual, especially after their time together last year with Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League, for the game’s premier prospects.
“He’s one of the best players in baseball, if not the best right now,” Harper said. “He’s pretty impressive every day he plays.”