12/23/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
Even after trade, Trumbo spends holidays with fans
Slugger attended annual Children's Holiday Party, despite being dealt to D-backs
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Mark Trumbo's entire world had been turned upside down. It was Dec. 10, and he had just been traded for the first time in his life, going to the D-backs because the Angels badly needed the cost-controlled pitching his power and age could bring back. Trumbo was leaving his hometown team, going to a new state and a new league and a new clubhouse and a new set of expectations.
But when he called the Angels' public-relations department shortly after the three-team deal was announced, the 27-year-old slugger had just one question:
Can I still attend the holiday party?
Trumbo was referring to the Angels' annual Children's Holiday Party at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney, which he was scheduled to attend the following day but was no longer expected to because, you know, he wasn't part of the team anymore.
But Trumbo had been taking part in this event since his Minor League days. It was, as he said, "kind of ingrained in me," like his Southern California roots and his admiration for the franchise that taught him to love baseball.
And so, the following afternoon, he surprisingly showed up, alongside his now ex-teammate and good friend Hank Conger and some former players he grew up watching -- Chuck Finley, Adam Kennedy and Mark Langston.
It was just like old times, except this year Trumbo was the only one among them without an Angels jersey on.
"Standing at home plate at the end of last year, I didn't know that would be my last at-bat in the foreseeable future as an Angel," Trumbo said in a phone conversation. "You just never know. But this is something I had control over, I guess. I felt like the right thing to do would be to go, to sign some autographs and say hi to the kids and say hi to all the other guys who were going and kind of do one last thing to say thanks for the opportunity that I got in Anaheim."
The Angels didn't want to trade Trumbo, but they couldn't say no to acquiring two young, controllable left-handed starters in Tyler Skaggs (from the D-backs) and Hector Santiago (White Sox). Trumbo understood. And the next afternoon, the Villa Park High School product said goodbye in his own way -- by reading Christmas stories, signing autographs and giving high-fives to 200 or so under-served children from his own backyard.
"I did expect it to be maybe a tad strange, but then again, it would only be the adults that would probably find it a little bit strange, because the kids are just happy to be there," Trumbo said. "It was cool. It was a little strange not putting the uniform on, but it was good nonetheless. I went in with an open mind, hoping for a good experience, and that's exactly how it turned out."
Twenty-four hours earlier, Trumbo was training with Conger, Kennedy and Peter Bourjos -- now with the Cardinals -- at Constant Performance in Anaheim, when his cell phone rang with the news that he was moving to Arizona, to play left field and to hit behind Paul Goldschmidt.
Angels broadcaster Jose Mota and radio play-by-play man Terry Smith left Trumbo for last during the introductions the following afternoon, and the slugger got by far the loudest applause.
"They knew that this is quite a unique thing -- a guy who's not on the team, got traded, could've been mopey," said Mota, who has been hosting the holiday party for more than a decade. "He decided, 'No, this is who I am.' You talk about showing your true colors and who you really are, I don't think it speaks any better than that action right there."
The trade isn't even two weeks old, but Trumbo has moved on in many ways. Last week, he flew to Arizona to take part in the D-backs' Winter Classic, where he met some of his new teammates, chatted with manager Kirk Gibson, wrapped a boa constrictor around his neck for a picture and got involved in an interactive Twitter chat with fans. Soon enough, he plans to buy a house near Chase Field.
Trumbo will finish his stint with the Angels as the team's leader in home runs each of the last three years, compiling 95 of them to go along with 282 RBIs from 2011-13. He is -- no matter how you feel about his on-base percentage -- the local kid who made good, going from a raw ex-pitcher drafted in the 18th round to one of the premier power hitters in the game.
Asked how he wants to be remembered by Angels fans, Trumbo said: "I always find that the best compliment I can give guys is they play the game the right way."
"Some guys are naturally more talented and put up better numbers than others, but I feel like I always gave the best effort that I did have, and hopefully the fans will remember that," he added. "You have successes, you have failures. But I did the best I could in the three years I was there, and I think quite a few people appreciate it. And I'm sure some don't, but that's what happens when you're in the spotlight."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.