Photo: Two-time All-Star Game MVP Mike Trout is pictured with Adam Zink and Zink’s parents and friends last Saturday at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Shown, from left, are Brent Zink, Kevin Fawley, Ellen Zink, Adam Zink, Trout and Craig Unger. (Provided photo)
By Jeff Gilliland – firstname.lastname@example.org
On a day when he was enjoying a once in a lifetime experience of his own, Adam Zink also made it a day a young fan of the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout will likely never forget.
As reported by The Times-Gazette, last month at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, Zink, treasurer for the Hillsboro City Schools, caught a leadoff home run off Trout’s bat. What made the feat all the more special was that Trout became the first player ever named MVP in back-to-back MLB All-Star games, and the home run completed what’s been called an All-Star game cycle, because Trout has singled, doubled, tripled and now homered in the first at-bat of each of four All-Star games.
Zink wondered what to do the with the ball as well as its value, so the day after the All-Star Game he contacted the Major League Baseball office to see if it would authenticate the ball. It would not, and told him to contact a third party authenticator. Zink said he contacted about seven different companies, but was told they only authenticate signatures.
At that point he contacted Craig Landis, Trout’s agent, to see if they might be interested in the ball. Zink said that within five minutes he received an email replay from Landis saying that he could offer Zink tickets to a game when the Angels played in Cleveland and a meet-and-greet with Trout before the game on Progressive Field, in exchange for the home run ball.
That sounded good enough to Zink, but he ended up with much more than he originally bargained for.
After receiving the offer, Zink first called Greenfield native Craig Unger and asked if the trade would be OK since Unger was the one who took Zink to the game. Zink said he’d take two tickets and Unger could have two.
“I planned on taking my dad because he always played baseball and coached me growing up. Baseball’s just one of those things growing up, you relate to with your dad,” Zink said. “Mom, on the other hand, said she wanted to go because she watches baseball all the time and wasn’t going to miss it. When Eric Kay from the Angels contacted me about the game, he said he could get me one more ticket for Mom. Craig took Kevin Fawley with his extra ticket. I actually had gotten to know Craig very well through Kevin, who was good friends with both of us.”
So, last Saturday the group headed to Cleveland to meet Trout and watch a baseball game.
After their arrival at Cleveland’s Progressgive Field, the group of five went down on the field for about 90 minutes during batting practice for both teams, stood by the Angels’ dugout and took photos, then talked to Trout for about 10 minutes.
In exchange for the All-Star Game ball, Zink received a ball and bat that Trout autographed in front of him. Then Trout autographed his authentic All-Star Game jersey and an Angels’ hat Zink was wearing, signed an Angels All-Star Game hat Unger was wearing, and signed an authentic All-Star Game jersey Zink’s dad was wearing. Trout also gave Zink two autographed All-Star Game balls and an All-Star Game Home Run Derby ball signed by Trout and Albert Pujhols.
During the group’s time on the field, though, another story started to develop.
“Before we went to the dugout we were standing in the secured area with other fans that had field passes,” Zink said. “There was a kid standing in front of me with Mike Trout gear on. I’m guessing he was 9 years old. The boy was down there with his parents, and my mom started talking to his mom.
“His mother said that the boy was a huge Mike Trout fan and they had to pull a lot of strings to get on the field in the hopes he could get an autograph and meet Mike. My mom told her that we were going to get to meet him and why. We told them to stay close to us and he should be able to meet him. When they took the five of us out of the secured area, the boy and his family had to stay in the secured area. He was as close as he could get while we were spending time with Mike, but right after he was done with us, Mike went straight in the clubhouse and didn’t make it over to that secured area.”
Zink said, “I looked over and the little guy looked crushed that he didn’t get to meet his favorite player. I told Mom to give me the regular baseball Mike had signed – I still had an ASG autographed ball – and I took it over to the boy. His face lit up, and his parents couldn’t believe I did that.
“When we all walked off the field together the boy’s dad asked if the boy could get a picture holding the bat. I let them take pictures with it, and they couldn’t thank me enough. The parents told us that we had no idea how thankful they were, and how much it meant to their son.”
Zink said that earlier, when Trout came over to meet the local group, he introduced himself to each person individually and shook everyone’s hand.
“He thanked us for coming to meet him and then he asked if he could see the (home run) ball,” Zink said. “We were looking at it and I showed him the scuff mark where it bounced off the top of the wall. He was really into the story, then Craig made sure to tell him it hit me in the cheek. He asked me if I was hurt or OK. I told him it just brushed me, and everyone laughed. Before he left, he shook everyone’s hand again and thanked all of us for coming, and for the ball.”
According to Zink, Trout said the ball would go home with his family, who happened to be at the Cleveland game with Trout’s high school coach, and would go in his personal trophy case where it would stay forever.
Zink said he feels confident that everything he received in exchange for the ball was more than worth it.
“Mike Trout took the time to spend with us, but before he did, he was going to other fans to sign autographs and take pictures with them. He was just a normal guy with a great attitude and appreciation for fans. I will always have the story of being at the game and getting the ball, but he was the one that hit it, and deserves to have it,” Zink said.
“I remember playing Little League baseball and whenever one of us hit a home run in a game, they always gave us the ball. I still have the balls I had hit, and still remember getting them, so I could tell this one meant a lot to him, also,” said Zink.
“When I got the ball at the All-Star Game it was pretty unbelievable,” Zink said. “I have never caught a ball at a professional baseball game and to get the lead-off All-Star Game home run was complete luck. Then after finding out it was his first at-bat All-Star Game cycle, and he was MVP two years in a row, made the ball even more special. Meeting Mike with my parents and friends couldn’t have been a better experience for all of us. It is something we will never forget.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.