It wasn’t the 475-foot home runs during batting practice that got Craig Landis’ attention the first time that he saw Mike Trout on a baseball field.
It was actually Trout’s speed, the way he ran, the way he got out of the batter’s box and sprinted to first base that impressed Landis, an agent with the Southern California-based Landis Baseball Group and an All-American in two sports, football and baseball, for Vintage High School in the 1970s.
“The speed comes to mind first,” Landis said. “Mike was so fast, just super fast.”
Landis took notice of Trout, who was going into his senior year at Millville High School in New Jersey, during the Area Code Games in August of 2008 at Long Beach State’s Blair Field.
“Mike went there still not rated super high,” Landis said in a telephone interview from his home in Murrieta, California (Riverside County), last week. “There’s not as many scouts in the Northeast. He wasn’t much on the national radar screen. Mike went to Long Beach somewhat unheralded, and within a week his status was already dramatically changing, because he got on the same field with the kids from California and Texas and Florida, and showed off his talents.”
Trout excelled during the week, not just as a hitter, but by also finishing second out of 200 players in the 60-yard dash.
“I saw the scouts and the college coaches flipping through their notes, going, ‘Trout. Trout. Who is this kid, Trout? Where is he from?’ ” Landis said. “He had pretty great power even then. By the end of the week, he was a guy to watch.”
It was a week when Landis got to meet Trout and his family. Landis has now had Trout, the center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels who is considered one of the top players in the game, as a client since 2009.
Trout was selected by the Angels 25th overall in the 2009 MLB Draft out of Millville Senior High School in New Jersey and made his big league debut on July 8, 2011. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2012.
Landis has represented other baseball players over the years, including Paul Konerko, J.J. Putz, J.J. Hardy, Aaron Rowand, Ryan Dempster, Jon Garland, Randy Winn and Bobby Howry.
His only client now is Trout, a two-time American League MVP and a seven-time All-Star. Trout will remain with the Angels after signing a 12-year contract extension for $430 million, to several media outlets. It’s the biggest contract in North American sports history, The AP reported.
Landis would not disclose how much he receives as the agent for the contract.
“This is my home. I love it. I think the direction of the franchise, if it was going the other way, I would have had to consider going. But it never crossed my mind. I was going to be an Angel for life, sure,” Trout said Sunday in an AP story.
Trout batted .312 with 39 home runs, 79 RBIs, 24 stolen bases, a .628 slugging percentage and a .460 on-base percentage in 140 games last year.
“Mike’s a guy that is comfortable with his environment,” said Landis. “He’s not a guy that is thinking the grass is always greener somewhere else. It was kind of a big thing for him to forgo the possibility of being a free agent in two years. He does like it in Anaheim. His family likes it. He’s very comfortable with his teammates and coaches. He just wanted to stay right there.”
Trout’s deal has no opt-outs and a full no-trade clause, according to MLB.com.
Trout has a .307 career batting average with 240 home runs and 651 RBIs, with a .417 on-base percentage.
“I think for most people, it’s pretty universally accepted now that he is the best player in the game,” said Landis. “He really truly enjoys the game. He honestly likes being out there. Mike is a competitive guy. I think that’s part of the key to his success – the pressure never really gets to him, because he’s just out there having fun.
“He’s playing just like he did when he was in Little League, just out there playing hard and having fun.”
“Mike is a nice, humble guy, not super talkative,”Landis added. “Back in New Jersey, they taught him, that’s how you play … you run out everything full speed. And to this day, he still executes it just like they taught him in high school.”
Last year, Trout was second in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player award. He was also awarded a Louisville Silver Slugger for the sixth time in his career.
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“He’s been unbelievably consistent,” said Landis. “He’s only had great years. He’s never had a bad or a mediocre year.”
Landis called the signing and long-term deal a special moment.
“I’ve seen a lot of change in the 10-year period,” said Landis. “It’s been a great ride. I’ve been flattered and humbled to be a part of the whole thing.
“Mike’s been great to me and my family. He’s very respectful. He’s very grounded and polite. He’s a well-mannered guy from a very nice family who raised him right.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with him in the last few weeks and he’s said he’s feeling good, baseball-wise. He feels good at the plate, feels good physically.”
Landis a star at Vintage
Landis, a 1977 Vintage graduate, is in the Crushers’ Athletic Hall of Fame. He was the quarterback on the football team for coach Burl Autry’s Crushers and played shortstop on the baseball team, which was coached by Clarence Tye.
He was a three-year starter in both sports and was the CalHiSports.com “Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year” in 1977. He was a first-round pick — the 10th overall selection — of the San Francisco Giants in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
He played six seasons (1977-82) in the minor leagues, including three at the Triple-A level.
He signed a national letter of intent with UCLA for football as a senior. Landis chose baseball, signing with the Giants.
Landis batted .284 with 625 hits, 45 home runs, 287 RBIs and 68 stolen bases in 654 minor league games over six seasons.
After his pro baseball career ended, Landis attended Stanford University on a full football scholarship. He played for Paul Wiggin and Jack Elway as a strong safety and on special teams from 1983-87.
He got two degrees from Stanford — a BA in economics and a master’s in developmental economics. He also went through the MBA program at Stanford.
Landis worked for Shearson Lehman for two years on Wall Street in New York and has been a baseball agent since 1991.
Father played in big leagues
Landis’ father, Jim Landis, who passed away in 2017, was a five-time Gold Glove outfielder and played 11 years in the major leagues.
Jim Landis played for the Chicago White Sox from 1957 to 1964 and still ranks among the top outfielders defensively all-time with his sparkling .989 fielding percentage. He was honored in 2001 as a member of the White Sox’s Team of the Century, which was determined by voting from the fans.
Landis retired after the 1967 season. He played for the Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland, Houston and Boston late in his career.
Landis batted first, second or third in the White Sox order, and for his career had a .247 batting average, with 93 home runs and 467 RBIs.
He won five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1964. His .993 fielding percentage led all American League centerfielders during the 1963 season.
In September of 2016, he was chosen in a vote of fans to the Chicago Tribune’s Greatest Baseball Team of All Time. The team consists of Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox players. Landis was voted as the team’s center fielder.