Operation “Big Fish,” the top secret plan by the Angels marketing department to create a life-sized Mike Trout bobblehead, went live in late February.
The scope of the operation was massive, spanning two continents, five cities and countless prayers that the priceless (the Angels would not reveal the cost) tchotchke wouldn’t break during its 7,250 mile journey.
The secret project was guided by a single Angels executive.
Name: John Rozak. Age: 35. Title: Senior Marketing Manager. Residence: Orange.
Friday, at precisely 5 p.m. the 6-foot-8 1/2, 190-pound polyresin and fiberglass replica of Mike Trout was unveiled in its permanent home – Section 101 in left field at Angel Stadium, otherwise known as “The Trout Farm.”
The real Mike Trout autographed his fiberglass self. The bobblehead will be on display during every Angels game.
A security guard will prevent its head from being bobbled by fans.
Result of Operation Big Fish: Success.
Operation Big Fish happened because of Mickey Mouse and an annual trip to China.
It happened in secret because Rozak wanted to build anticipation for the unveiling. Only a few key people knew about the project. He marked all of his emails and files “Big Fish,” with no overt mention of Trout.
“When he won the MVP award, I said let’s get moving on this,” Rozak said.
But even before that Rozak, the creative force behind most of the Angels promotions, had noticed how fans loved taking selfies with the fiberglass, Angels-cap-wearing Mickey Mouse in front of Angel Stadium.
Rozak thought a giant Mike Trout bobblehead would also be a fan favorite.
Rozak is the only major league baseball executive to take a yearly trip to a sourcing fair in Hong Kong. Every year, he meets with vendors to discuss promotional items.
There was one man, in particular – now a friend of Rozak’s – who would serve as Rozak’s contact in China during Operation Big Fish.
Name: Hoe Lui. Expertise: Chinese manufacturing, import/export. Languages: Mandarin, English fluent. Residence: Tracy, Calif.
In February, Rozak called Lui to let him in on his secret plan.
Soon, Lui hired an artist to replicate Mike Trout.
Name: Dicky Sze. Occupation: Sculptor. Residence: Shenzhen, China.
Rozak sent photos of Trout. Sze made clay models of Trout. And, as he worked 14-hour days in Anaheim – staying late often because of the time difference in Asia – Rozak said things to Sze like: “Let’s make the nostrils bigger,” and “Let’s make the ears smaller.”
“To watch the guy work is straight magic,” Rozak said.
The oversize head and headless body were created and painted separately. A huge spring was fastened around the neck and connected to the inside of the head.
The Mike Trout bobblehead was trucked from Shenzhen to Hong Kong, where it was delicately placed aboard a Matson freighter. It traveled with thousands and thousands of tiny Garrett Richards bobbleheads.
“I was scared,” Rozak said.
In the world of life-sized bobbleheads, as in real life, there was only one Mike Trout.
SECRET TO THE END
The cargo shipped on June 17. It arrived in Long Beach July 16. It was offloaded and trucked to San Pedro, where it was put in a foam box.
“It looked like a coffin,” Rozak said.
The Big Fish arrived at Angel Stadium last Thursday. It was placed in a storage room. It was viewed by Rozak and no one else; not team owner Arte Moreno, not team president John Carpino. Not even Mike Trout.
Until it was unveiled Friday.
Now that Operation Big Fish has succeeded, Rozak has more skullduggery planned.
He hinted at more replica players being made in China. He hinted at an Angels museum where said replica players may reside.
But that plan – let’s call it Operation Undisclosed – is top secret.