Back on July 22nd we closed the BakerBoys&Baseball installment by professing you should know The TroutNet Team. Mike Trout was already well aware of who they were, but to make sure you did too, he decided to put an original marketing stamp on the father and son duo of Jonathan and A.J. Plaza. Trout launched a grand slam into Section 240 of the right field stands on July 26th against the Texas Rangers and wouldn’t you know it, right into the net that he and Kole Calhoun have made a contest of throwing balls into after warming up between innings. With his typical flair of rising to the moment, one might suggest he hit it there on purpose.
Earlier this the season my good friend and fellow Halo Loyalist, Allison Abbott, professed you have to meet The TroutNet guys, saying “you will love what they are doing out in right field”. In all honesty, I had no idea how right she would be. When I finally meet up with Jonathan and A.J. and learned their story, I knew right away I would include a blurb about them at the end of one of the BakerBoys&Baseball installments. Jonathan and A.J. decided to come slum it in Section 124 during the game that day. After sitting and talking awhile, we thought it would be fun to take a lap around the stadium and go out to where the action happens, Section 240 to give Zac a shot at catching a ball in the TroutNet.
After settling in at the top of the 7th, Zac and I saw first hand how engaged Trout and Calhoun were with the TroutNet phenomenon. There was a genuine joy visible on the faces of these baseball heroes. That joy was matched by the fans all in attendance on this hot Thursday afternoon sitting out in the Right Field stands, as Trout and Calhoun took turns trying to hit the TroutNet after warming up before the top half of each inning. For the record, the tandem went 0-3 while we were out there. The three fans that caught the errant throws didn’t mind one bit as they were going home with a precious souvenir and a great story about the throw that missed the TroutNet. Though Jonathan has dozens of recorded shots that were nothing but net.
Zac and A.J. quickly hit it off. It never ceases to amaze me how baseball removes age from friendships. Zac and A.J. decided to have a catch right behind the post game set, out by the big hats in front of the stadium. They didn’t seem to mind that the thousands of fans leaving the stadium would interrupt their game, and instead just kept throwing the ball back and forth as though they were the only ones out there. The game that day was a tough one for the Halos offense as former Halo hurler, Ervin Santana, held the Angels to just four hits and eight shutout innings as the Minnesota Twins blanked our team 3-0. While the Angels didn’t come away with a W as we had hoped that day, we came away with new friends.
The original net was a father’s design to help get his son noticed amongst the thousands of fans at the ball park in hopes of getting a ball for his boy from his baseball hero, Mike Trout. If you read the original BakerBoys&Baseball installment that tells our story, you know why I found an instant appreciation and respect for the Plazas. That has sense dramatically evolved, even before the national attention draped on the humble duo, Jonathan and A.J. started the #TroutNetGiveAway. Essentially, recognizing the joy baseball fans, especially kids, get from having a ball tossed up from the Center and Right Fielder that patrol the Big A outfield was something they knew needed to be shared. The select random fans, and occasionally yes even grown folk too, to take a turn with the Trout Net and now also The RedRojoRing. I am sure this is what has endured the Trout Net Team to the fans, media, and big league ball players too!
As it turned out, I waited a bit too long to tell the story I wanted, because after July 26th, you would have to be living under a rock not to know about The TroutNet team now. Jonathan and AJ came over to the house after the famous Grand Slam into the TroutNet and Jonathan’s phone was blowing up as though he was the one hitting the big fly, not the one in the stands catching it in his simple, yet fantastic creation. Their story has touched many and a few of their great moments have been shared by all of the local media outlets, as well as the national attention by the big boys, ESPN, Fox Sports, and MLB Network. Countless interviews have led to many more great and memorable moments for Jonathan and A.J. It turns out, some advice I gave Jonathan after having first met him rang true, “Good things happen to good people”. So instead of me taking my word smith approach to tell their story, I think it would he only fitting that I let Jonathan share it in his own words:
Alexander J Plaza is my son. He is the sole reason why the TroutNet was born. He embarked on his baseball career early this spring 2015. He loves the game like no other, from the moment he took his first steps, he’s had a bat, a glove and a baseball. As we approached our Opening Day 2015 at the Big A, my son had already begun his Tee Ball season with Garden Grove Pony Baseball. He played for the Toronto Blue Jays. I was a little upset knowing he wouldn’t be sporting his favorite team, The Angels. During our offseason we watched nothing but Trout Highlights, his best catches, his stolen bases and his Home Runs. My son loves Mike, he might love him more than me. He emulates his style of game and puts it to good use out on the diamond.
Opening Day 2015 at the Big A was around the corner. I wanted to make something for AJ. A sign, a poster, a something. I wanted to make something original. Something that nobody had done. Mike Trout had just won the AL MVP. I wanted him to notice my son and hopefully toss a baseball to him. My son would be so happy if I could get him a Trout baseball I thought. I kept working on the design on paper, I kept putting it off every weekend. Not knowing the stadium regulations regarding the TroutNet that exists today, I made a poster sized TroutNet. It was 20” tall & 28” across. It said “TroutNet!” with an MVP logo, the #27, Mike Trout’s back shot when he hit for the Cycle and last but not least a circle with a net 11” in diameter. I finished late into the night, about 3 am. I showered, slept and went to work. I requested a half day for opening day, little did I know of the events that would transpire after that day.
We arrive at the Big A, its packed with fans, its loud, its baseball season and its beautiful. Walking in everybody said what a catchy poster, I laughed and said thank you! We sat in our seats Section 240, Row A, seats 11 & 12. The ceremonies began, old glory was covering the field and I felt happy. I felt honored to be home with my son, I got a bit sentimental due to my service for my country, since the day I left the Marine Corps I told myself to live my life in a positive way and honor the lives of those who aren’t here today. The National Anthem was sung and the Super fortress bomber flew over.
The players hit the field and there was Mike and Kole warming up playing catch. Calhoun throws the ball to the ball boy and Trout makes his way to centerfield where we give a standing ovation chanting MVP. AJ and I are in the corner of section 240 row A and the bushes. I hold AJ up and our sign with the other. Trout looks and smiles. He acknowledged our sign with a chest/fist bump. The Kansas City Royals are in town and we all know how we feel about them. I wanted payback for last year’s ALDS sweep. The first inning is over and the Royals are up 1 – 0.
Our Angels are up, Kole grounds out, Trout grounds out and Pujols pops out in foul territory, inning over. Our Halos hit the field, Trout and Kole warming up again playing catch like they usually do between innings. They finish warming up and Trout keeps the ball and he’s coming our way. I’m standing with AJ on my left and the TroutNet on my right! Trout comes by and under hands it, Swish! Into the TroutNet!!! The crowd applauds our MVP and congratulates us.
AJ is so happy, I’m happy and the TroutNet mission was accomplished. My son Alexander got his first ever Mike Trout baseball. Prior to the home stand taking place, the Angels posted on their Instagram the “#HappyHalos” contest. I’m posting my photo of AJ with his ball and the TroutNet! I make all my hash tags and add the “#HappyHalos”. Again, little did I know what would become of that night. The game ends and we drop the opener 2-4. A week later I get a “DM-Direct Message” on my Instagram from the Angels. They said we had won the “#HappyHalo” contest and they’d like to my information to send us our prize. I was excited for the prize AJ was to receive. As we prepared for the next home stand and Star Wars Night I posted a picture from Opening Day of my son AJ holding his TroutNet. It said “Catch us with our #TroutNet tonight against the A’s!!! Go @Angels!!!” Following with lots of hash tags for our boys in red.
Star Wars Night came and we were ready! AJ was “Darth Trout”, he had the look of “Darth Maul” and was wearing his Foam Trout Hat, you heard right, wearing his Trout Foam Hat. I cut holes on the sides and he wore it. We sat in 240 again, excited for our game. Trout sees us again, smiles and throws another baseball at his TroutNet. My son was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe that Mike would do it again. Now AJ and I had a Trout Baseball, mission accomplished x2. I post the video of AJ talking about the Trout ball and we go home, again, not thinking of what we had just started.
A day later everything changed, I was out having lunch during my work day. Ordering chick-fil-a when my phone started vibrating non-stop. I was being tagged and messaged on Instagram. Why?? I said. I read the comments on my page, “MIKE TROUT JUST REPOSTED AJ’s Photo with his TROUTNET!!”. A sudden rush of adrenaline hit me, I was nervous, excited and freaking out. I click on his profile and there it is! Mike posted my sons photo holding his TroutNet just like the comments said. He wrote “I see you out there bud!!! Lol” I call AJ immediately and tell him that Trout sees him and that he posted a picture of him. My son was so happy, 3years old and smiling over FaceTime made my life. The look on his face was priceless. I told him I loved him and carried on with my day. I went back to work, printed out “thanks for the repost Trout” and bought tickets for that same day game.
We go to our section, what will soon be our new home away from home. It’s the last game against the A’s. Trout comes out sees and acknowledges our message and we scream “Thank you”. He keeps the ball and tosses it a 3rd time striking our TroutNet. This is the moment I realized it would never be the same, a father, a son and baseball. The moments we shared with Mike would forever change the atmosphere at Right Center Field as the TroutNet was here to stay. I post our picture once more on social media and Mike responds to it by saying “No Prob!!” I couldn’t believe it. Following that catch, I came up with something special something that would change our lives and the lives around us at the Big A.
We had three baseballs, one for AJ, one for me and the third ball. I came up with the “#TroutNetGiveAway” on Instagram. I announced a winner by the name of Bryce Burke. He was about one and a half years old at the time (now 2). I had followed his father Ryan who takes beautiful pictures at the Big A and decided to share that with him. From this moment on every baseball we caught would go to Halo fan, my son would choose the winner and we would post the winner on our Instagram “TroutNet27”. I wanted to share these moments of our lives with others, again going back to the promise I made myself when I left the corps. TroutNet 2 debuted a week after TroutNet 1, the net hole was much bigger, giving us a better chance of catching the ball. These were the last poster type TroutNets, the next would change the game forever.
As the games progressed we attended more and more games. Every time Trout would score into the TroutNet we would have a “#TroutNetGiveAway Winner. Then I decided to change up the TroutNet to its original concept. I was taking that leap of faith because I wasn’t familiar with the stadiums regulations. TroutNet 3 debuted against the Rockies in May. It was what I originally wanted to bring on Opening Day. It was red, 24” across in diameter with 6” TROUTNET! Letters across the top, a 2 on the left and a 7 on the right. It was big hit with the fans. The game began and Trout loved it. Immediately said thanks with his fist/chest bump over his heart saying thank you. The inning passed, there was Trout lobbing a baseball from the outfield into the TroutNet, and again a new “#TroutNetGiveAway” Winner was announced that night. Later I added two pictures of Trout’s leaping for a baseball below the 2 and the 7, giving it a great look.
As the season continued we attended more games, more games meant more “#TroutNetGiveAway” winners. TroutNet 4 was a bit extreme, it was three 15” nets tied up together in one straight line, it was about 4ft tall definitely not in compliance. I was able to get in one time until one day when TroutNet 3 and 4 were going to appear in one game security told me “No more TroutNets”. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t believe our beloved stadium would ban our sharing experience with our fans in right center field. I left the TroutNets and proceeded to my seat TroutNet-less. I wasn’t happy, I was upset, sad and bit furious. I couldn’t believe we wouldn’t be able to share this experience with our fans. As I was walking out that night, someone in security told me to me to contact a man that would change the TroutNet forever. His name is Brian Sanders.
Mr. Sanders is the Senior Director of Ballpark Operations. He was the one I contacted when my TroutNets were banned. I left him a voicemail and he replied quickly. I spoke with him regarding our mission out in right center field and he approved it. He gave the green light on everything but TroutNet 4, I agreed with him, it was a bit too much. So I took a net off and debut the TroutNet Mini. A perfect sized TroutNet for my son AJ to hold. It was brilliant. This was going to be the best ever. AJ catching his own ball to give away, and sure enough, the next game we attended with the TroutNet Mini, Trout makes it into the TroutNet Mini. A warm thank you to Mr. Brian Sanders.
We’re almost caught up, it’s been a long ride. The games come and go and more #TroutNetGiveAway winners are announced. The look on their faces is priceless. I love how my son AJ gets upset when Trout misses the net, not because he wants a ball, but because he wants to give it away! So proud of him. When AJ is not at the games I let the fans hold the TroutNet, I want them to experience it all. For them to feel the rush that we get doing it, something they’ll never forget and that’s what it’s all about.
Coming to the All Star Break we had lots of fans, all from the TroutNet, it was amazing to share that with them. During a regular workday within the break a follower tagged me in a photo posted by Instagram. A rep for them was interviewing Mike Trout, Instagram posted a picture of his locker room. They talked about his office, his family and his fans. Trout responded to the question about his fans by talking about my son. The post goes like this:
“ Twenty-three-year-old Mike Trout, is baseballs reigning American League MVP, who signed a $144.5 million contract in 2014. And yet, his pictures reveal a regular guy who loves his job with its locker room “office,” his family and his fans _ many of whom make him creative signs. One child made a sign with a built-in net that Mike tosses a ball into every home game that’s known as –what else? – the “Trout Net!” What’s cool is he always finds a new fan to give a ball to,” the superstar says. Again I called AJ and told him Trout was thinking of him even at the All Star game where weren’t even attending.
Upon reading Mikes kind words I decided to make a new TroutNet, an MVP type TroutNet. TroutNet 5 is one of a kind, it’s a beautiful 28” TroutNet that has Red LED’s in it. It debuts after the All Star game in Cincinnati. The fans loved it, bright red LED’s showing our teams colors. Trout loved it, but he didn’t know it lit up, but that didn’t matter he still scored a ball into the TroutNet. The stadium lights dim them badly; you can see the Red Halo when you’re walking around the big A or at night behind the FoxSportsWest booth hosting the Angels Post Game Show. So that night, AJ and I took a photo with Jose Mota. AJ loves Jose Mota, he’s like his favorite Uncle. I posted the picture of AJ and Jose Mota on Instagram yelling “Light That Baby UP” Angels Win Walk off!!! Moments later our lives would change again.
Mike reposts my sons photo with Jose Mota and the LED TroutNet 5. He writes, “Nice, #LTBU”. He tags me and follows me back on Instagram! Boom! My phone blows up! Message after message after message. Followers after followers after followers. I showed AJ the picture that Mike had reposted and he was going wild. He was so happy. I was happy, the TroutNet dream had begun. That post kind of put us out there, people finally knew who the TroutNet guys were. I decided to call us The TroutNetCrew and every fan that was a #TroutNetGiveAway winner or fans of the TroutNet were part of the TroutNetFamily. With family means more people and by people I mean Players.
The Flying Rojo is our Angels SuperStar Right Fielder Kole Calhoun. He has joined the fun with Mike and trying to score in the TroutNet. I believe they have a competition. Who knows who wins what when one loses. They have fun in the outfield and we’re glad to be part of it, because again, it’s for the fans. We’re just setting up the arrangements via the TroutNet. Then one Sunday afternoon my life changed forever, our TroutNet went viral, national and Worldwide.
On July 26, 2015 something incredible happened. Something I couldn’t possibly imagine. The Dream of the TroutNet came true. To Catch a Home Run by our favorite player, Mike Trout. The stage was set, bases loaded and trout is at the plate, I told the boys in front of me with TroutNet 3 if I could get it back. I had this feeling, this hunch that something was going to happen. The count is 3-2 and Trout hits one deep into Right Center Field!!! It’s coming my way, I leap up and it lands in the TroutNet! The entire section explodes!!! High fives, screaming, more high fives, more screaming!!! It was heaven on earth for that short amount of time. it was incredible, what are the chances of that? The odds had to have been against me, but it happened. Not just a Home Run, but a Grand Slam!!! Again, my phone blew up!!!! Family, friends, and Instagramers flooded my phone with messages!!!! Major League Baseball interviewed me and posted a picture of me saying “Bring a Trout Net, catch a @MikeTrout grand slam. AWESOME.” FoxSportsWest came by had me on the Angels Post Game Show. It was an experience I’ll never forget. So many media highlights, I wish I could name them all, from SportCenter, FoxSportsLive, MLB Quickpitch, ESPN shows, Online media markets. Our Orange County Register published an article of my son and I. Unfortunately, AJ wasn’t there when I caught it but he arrived moments later. Just in time for the pictures.
Two weeks later fast-forwarding to today I got to say it’s been an unbelievable experience, we love the fans of the TroutNet, we love our team, and we love Mike Trout & Kole Calhoun. Since then I’ve mounted a Go Pro to TroutNet 5, made TroutNetVision, a view for fans to see the ball into action. Mike and Kole are making fans the happiest they could ever be through the TroutNet and that’s where our next dream comes into plan. Mike Trout’s Birthday was August 7. I personally made him his very own TroutNet for him to own, along with 2 TroutNets for his niece and nephew. Pink one for her, Red one for him. I hope they love them like our fans love ours. So here we are meeting great people who are lovers of the game like us. We hope to bring a TroutNet to your home in the future, so that you may live the moments that took our breath and that we will never forget.
With Love & Respect,
Alexander & Jonathan Plaza
There is not a chance that I could have told that story any better. Every time I have been at the stadium with Jonathan and also at C.J. Wilson’s charity event, fans stop to talk with Jonathan and ask to take their picture with the TroutNet. Jonathan always obliges, even in the middle of a conversation. He recognizes that though the TroutNet is his creation that he started for A.J., it has grown to be a link between the fans and our baseball heroes. True to the humble, generous, and respectful qualities I have grown to know in Jonathan, he shares his bounty with fellow fans.
Jonathan and A.J. have created a buzz and excitement at the ballpark, not normally seen at The Big A. If you are headed to the Big A to cheer on our favorite team and have tickets in the Right Field Pavilion, look for Jonathan and A.J., you may just be the lucky fan to try your luck at catching a ball in the TroutNet or RedRojoRing! Special Spoiler Alert for those of you who stuck around to read the whole article, take notice I didn’t say Section 240 in Right Field. I have a breaking scoop, Mike Trout has encouraged The TroutNet Team to mix up the section and share the wealth. For now, I think that will be the Right Field Pavilion, but stay tuned as anything can happen, just ask A.J. and Zac:
As has been the case of late, we have no idea where the inspiration for the next installment from the BakerBoys&Baseball come from. We have several interview requests out there, including requests hand delivered by the BaseballBoy to Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun. Or, we might make some more new friends at the stadium that turn out to be the next story, just like the Plazas, either way we hope to have something fun to share with all of you. Enjoy some of our favorite TroutNet photos below, you just might be in one of them! In the mean time, keep filling the in between pauses with meaningful, thoughtful moments and go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!