On the morning after Derek Jeter announced his retirement during spring training of 2014, I happened to be in Angels camp in Tempe, Arizona. At that time, a manufactured storyline was going around that Mike Trout could replace Jeter as the "face of baseball."
As Trout fielded questions about this topic, he was affable, engaging -- and clearly uninterested in being anything other than a great ballplayer for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He was more goofy younger brother than international celebrity, and that seemed fine.
The news on Tuesday morning of Trout's 12-year, $430 million agreement with the Angels, first reported by ESPN, closed off any remaining chance that Trout can ever rise above niche recognition from hardcore baseball fans.
Had he become a free agent in two years and signed with the Yankees -- or joined Bryce Harper in Philly -- Trout's name recognition would have skyrocketed beyond his Fangraphs base.
But he instead made a choice that appeared to make much more sense for him. Trout will be filthy rich while playing for the lower-profile team of two in a region that is hardly passionate about baseball. Now, hopefully, we can close off any discussion about him becoming famous.
This is not a character flaw; it reads more like self-awareness. And barring injury, Trout will be the all-time Angel, and wear the team's hat in Cooperstown.
He will also leave celebrity and promotion of the game to a trio of stars in the Northeast -- Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, and Harper.
The first two will never be as accomplished as Trout, but they have an unquantifiable star power that sets them apart. It's easy to imagine Judge and Harper as the only active baseball players who would be stopped on the street by a non-baseball fan.
Betts could be headed that way. Last season, he topped Trout as the MLB leader in WAR, while winning a championship with the Red Sox. He leapfrogged Judge and Harper in accomplishments, and has a more diverse skill set than either.
Betts plays in a major baseball market with a passionate fan base, and is the best guess for baseball's next $400 million man.
It will be our pleasure watching the American League East every day for the next several years, as Judge and Betts fight it out for the title of most famous player -- and to see the Harper storyline play out in Philadelphia, a city to which he is committed for 13 years.
Why does fame matter? Because despite baseball's continued financial success, its only true crossover cultural figure is Alex Rodriguez, who last played in 2016 -- and who is currently on the cover of US Weekly magazine. Seriously, go look in your supermarket's checkout aisle.
Any sport needs stars. These are the charismatic players for young boys and girls to admire, emulate, get excited about and buy memorabilia for. In the NBA and NFL, star power is everywhere. Odell Beckham Jr. is famous. Tom Brady is famous. Lebron James (duh) and Steph Curry and Anthony Davis are famous.
Mike Trout will never be famous. Tuesday's megadeal assured that he will remain a quietly all-world talent tucked away in Orange County, and content to leave the pursuit of stardom to Judge, Betts and Harper.
To each their own. Trout chose anonymity and riches over the Yankees or Phillies or Red Sox, and that will work just fine for him.