Smith: Trumbo's game speaks volumes with big stick
ANAHEIM – The call was memorable simply because Angels play-by-play broadcaster Victor Rojas was able to make it. He wasn't rendered speechless and stuck in an agape state of astonishment with the detonation of another massive Trumbomb.
"That is hammered! Oh. My. A big, big fly for Mark Trumbo. Two-nothing Halos. I've never seen a baseball go that far in this ballpark," exclaimed Rojas during the Fox Sports West telecast April 29.
That night, Angels All-Star slugger Mark Trumbo launched a fastball from Oakland right-hander Dan Straily, sending it towering over the left-field wall at O.co Coliseum, beyond the 1-800-RAIDERS billboard and presumably into a second-level tunnel where it is probably still rolling.
During the telecast, the solo home run was initially estimated at 435 feet, then more accurately calculated to be 475 feet by ESPN Home Run Tracker, tying the April 18 blast by Anthony Rizzo at Wrigley Field as this season's longest.
By the end of that night's 19-inning marathon loss to the Athletics, the YouTube-d Trumbo moonshot had gone viral and the MLB.com highlight (http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=26704051&topic_id=10025018&c_id=mlb) widely shared.
The home run also became a huge commercial for Fullerton-based Trinity Bat Company, as many wondered what did the hammering.
The answer: Trumbo swings a 34-inch, 321/2- to 33-ounce birch Trinity Pro Model PS 27:1 with wiped-on ebony stain, gold logo decals and laser-etching.
"It gets busy around here every time Trumbo hits a big one," said Jeff McKee, Trumbo's "bat man" and vice president of the 7-year-old custom bat supplier.
"People think, 'I want to hit big home runs like Mark Trumbo' so they want the same bat even though it's not necessarily the right bat for the person."
It's the same purchasing pattern that has driven millions of amateur golfers to want the same $400 drivers the pros swing and then expect to hit 300 yards off the tee.
"So, about 35 percent of our pro model bat sales are to minor-league guys who want to swing the same bat that Trumbo swings," McKee said. "It's also the same bat we originally made for Adrian (Gonzalez of the Dodgers)."
In 2008, Gonzalez, then with the San Diego Padres, passed on big companies offering endorsement money to turn to the small, family-owned, Christian-based Trinity to custom-make a 34-inch, 32-ounce bat.
He asked for a flared knob, medium handle and a large barrel laser-etched with PS27-1. The model number is a reference to his favorite Bible verse, Psalm 27, which reads, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?"
The bat appealed to Trumbo, a homegrown Angel (Villa Park High) who has stayed loyal and exclusively swung Trinity bats made in Angel Stadium's backyard.
"I like their product and their customer service," Trumbo has said. "I can talk to them about a bat, get changes made right away and have the bats here in a few days if not the next day. It wouldn't necessarily be that way with another bigger company."
Angels second baseball Howie Kendrick switched from Louisville Slugger three seasons ago to swing a custom ash Trinity Pro Model HK 47. His .290 batting average led active Angels going into Monday's game.
Neither Kendrick nor Trumbo (.278 BA) are compensated by Trinity. They don't even swing free bats. (The Angels have to purchase bats at MLB rates for their players — unlike gloves and spikes, which are supplied by manufacturers for free in exchange for exposure.)
But Trumbo remains one of Trinity's biggest billboards, having led the Angels in home runs in 2011 (29) and 2012 (32).
This season, he is again setting the pace with nine (tied for fifth in the AL) through Sunday, averaging 420.3 feet in flight. That's three homers ahead of the six he had through May 13 last season, his first as an All-Star and AL participant in the Home Run Derby.
The only equipment change since last season has been Trumbo's move from tape on the handle to a bright red Tater Grip, formerly endorsed by Gonzalez.
"I wasn't sure how things were going to go for Mark after he broke seven bats during spring training and didn't hit any home runs (in a team-high 74 at-bats)," McKee said. "But I'm not worried any more."
Trumbo ended April with five home runs and a .300 average. He hit six of his nine home runs in an eight-game stretch from April 29, with the 475-foot rocket, to May 7, his most recent off Houston's Jordan Lyles at Minute Maid Park.
There's no measurement for that blast listed on Home Run Tracker. Maybe it's still going, going ... gone.
Contact the writer: email@example.com