Bryan Dobzanski is similar to just about every other baseball player in South Jersey: He continues to be astounded by Mike Trout's impact on the sport.
Dobzanski, a senior pitcher at Delsea and likely a higher-round pick in June's major-league draft, is no different in that regard from Camden Catholic's Joey Craig or Bishop Eustace's Nick Browne or Delran's Dave Geary or Shawnee's Nick Corbi or Cherokee's Frank Rosetti or hundreds of other players on South Jersey teams.
They all want to Be Like Mike.
And here's the thing: In a way, they all can be.
These guys know Trout, a 2009 Millville High School graduate, has become the face of major-league baseball at age 22.
They know his statistics, his status as a Sports Illustrated magazine cover boy this week next to a headline that proclaims him to be "The Best . . . Beyond a Shadow of a Trout."
Dobzanski and his fellow South Jersey players shake their heads in wonder - both at Trout's meteoric rise and the proximity of his launching pad.
"He's the best player in the world, and he's from 20 minutes away," Dobzanski said. "That's crazy."
But Trout, who will return to his hometown area for the first time as a major leaguer as the Los Angeles Angels play the Phillies in a two-game, interleague series Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon in Citizens Bank Park, is more than just an incredibly productive player.
And deep down, that's the real source of South Jersey's pride in its hometown hero.
Sure, Trout put up numbers in his first two full seasons that compare to the production of all-time greats such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr., among others.
Sure, Trout projects as a first-ballot Hall of Famer if he stays healthy and follows the trajectory of his early career over the next 15 years.
But these kids are perceptive. They see more than baseball brilliance when they look at Trout.
They see hustle. They see enthusiasm. They see an athlete with a new $144.5 million contract who still plays the game as if he's back in Little League in Millville, racing around the bases with a smile on his face and the thought of a postgame hotdog on his mind.
"I was just talking to my parents about this," Dobzanski said. "He's such a clean-cut kid. He's humble. He goes about things the right away. He plays so hard, always hustling, always doing the right things out there.
"He's my role model. You watch the way he carries himself, and you want to be the same way."
Browne, a junior outfielder who leads South Jersey in home runs with 10 (eight shy of Trout's state record of 18, set in 2009), said Trout sets an "example" for other players.
"It's awesome to think that he's from right here," Browne said. "He's a guy that everybody looks up to not just because he's a great player but he's also a great guy."
Craig, a senior shortstop and Monmouth recruit, said it's remarkable that Trout, for all his success, is held in such high regard by nearly everyone connected to the sport.
"You watch the interviews, and nobody ever says anything bad about him player-wise or personality-wise," Craig said. "People are always talking about what a great guy he is in addition to what a great player he is."
Rosetti, a senior pitcher and Lehigh recruit, said Trout is an inspiration because of his "passion" for the game.
"That's South Jersey baseball right there - how hard he plays," Rosetti said. "We [Cherokee players] all talk about him all the time. You see his drive, his determination.
"He's an inspiring athlete because of that, because of how hard he plays.
"You want to be that way. You want to carry that over into your play."
Corbi, a senior second baseman, said Trout's image reflects well on South Jersey.
"He's clean," Corbi said. "He's always hustling. If you wanted to point to somebody as a role model, you point to him."
Geary, a senior shortstop, is struck by Trout's approach to the game as much as his ability.
"He's got such a great attitude," Geary said. "He's never down on himself, never down on others. You watch him play, and he's got such an upbeat attitude about the game. You want to be that way."
These kids aren't naive. They know Trout has rare gifts: that strength and speed, that short power stroke, those quick-twitch muscles, that uncanny ability to recognize and react to pitches.
They know he is more like one in a billion than one in a million.
But they also know they can Be Like Mike in other ways - in their effort and enthusiasm and understanding that they are playing a game that ought to be fun.
Maybe that's why they relate to him so well.
Because he's from South Jersey. Because he plays with joy and abandon. Because he sets an example that they can follow.
"Everybody wants to be like him," Dobzanski said. "Kids in Little League and all the way up, they all want to be that way. They see the way he plays, the way he carries himself, and they all say, 'Yeah, that's how I want to be.' "