Catching a game together: Santa Ana dad’s ‘TroutNet’ has drawn attention, connection to Angels star

If you’re going to make a sign to take to the stadium to announce to the world it is your son’s first ballgame, you want what happened to the Plaza family to happen to you.

Thanks to his creative design, Jonathan Plaza and his 4-year-old son, A.J., have been on TV. They’ve met major leaguers, including Angels star Mike Trout. Those major leaguers have thrown them baseballs. They may have discovered a future business opportunity.

Then, in the middle of last season, one miraculous play made them as famous as they could have dreamed.

“I am so happy for my son,” said Plaza, 25, who lives in Santa Ana and has served in the Marines.

On Opening Day of the 2015 season, Plaza made a poster for his son, put a hole in the middle and attached a mesh sack. He called it the “TroutNet” and took it to their seats in section 240, row A – the first row in right-center field. When Trout took the field to warm up, he noticed the sign and tossed a ball toward the Plazas.

The ball landed in the net and a phenomenon was born.

Plaza thought about calling it “Trout Catcher” or “Catch a Trout.” But “TroutNet” seemed so simple.

Both Trout and Kole Calhoun started tossing baseballs up to Plaza’s net every time he took it to the game.

It became such a regular occurrence that Plaza wanted to teach his son a lesson. After collecting a few baseballs tossed by major leaguers, Plaza instructed his son to start giving them away. Now, A.J. picks lucky fans to receive the balls he catches in the net.

“I didn’t want him to be a spoiled brat,” Plaza said. “Life isn’t all about him.”

So Trout and Calhoun kept tossing balls into the net, and the Plazas kept handing them out. Plaza took pictures of his son with the net, posted them on Instagram, and Trout “liked” it. Suddenly, a divorced dad from Santa Ana had an Internet connection with one of the best players in baseball.

Plaza, who is a loan counselor and between jobs, kept improving the net. He’s made seven models.

He patented the design and trademarked the name “RALLYNET.” He’s in the earliest stages of finding out how to turn this into a business.

“It’s my dream that every baseball fan can have one,” he said.

He said he wants other people to have a chance to feel what he felt July 26.

The Angels were playing the Texas Rangers, and Plaza had given the net to another fan.

As Trout came to bat with the bases loaded, Plaza asked the fan if he could have the net back.

“I had a feeling,” Plaza said.

Trout blasted the next pitch over the fence in right center field for a grand slam home run … straight into Plaza’s net.

“Oh, my god!” was his reaction.

After the game, Plaza was interviewed on television. Then he was invited to meet Trout on the field before batting practice.

Trout signed an autograph for his son. “Alexander, live your life to the fullest,” he wrote.

So far, that home run is the only batted ball that has landed in the net.

This season, Plaza is taking his net on the road. He hopes to be in New York, Boston, Chicago and the All-Star game in San Diego.

That grand slam ball now sits in Plaza’s Santa Ana apartment.

He was offered $10,000 for it.

He said no.

“That one is staying with me,” he said.

Contact the writer: or 714-796-7898

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