AL Stars-NL Stars Preview
Flip on any highlight show and you’re almost sure to see them,
with those peach-fuzz faces and boyish features beneath their big
Mike Trout makes a diving catch on the warning track.
Manny Machado whacks another double into the corner at Camden
Bryce Harper belts a tape-measure home run or barrels into a
catcher … or an outfield fence … or whatever stands in his
The next generation of baseball stars has arrived – straight
from the senior prom, it seems – and these guys are changing the
complexion of the grand ol’ game.
Derek Jeter is 39 and injured, left off the All-Star team for
the first time in eight years.
Matt Harvey is 24 and merciless, with a polished array of
breaking pitches to complement 98 mph heat.
”These guys are coming up now with incredible talent, these
young players,” National League manager Bruce Bochy said Monday at
Citi Field, where the New York Mets are hosting the All-Star game
for the first time since Shea Stadium opened in 1964. ”I think
they are just getting better, faster, bigger, stronger still, and
it’s impressive to watch.”
Trout and Harper, the Rookies of the Year last season, are
making their second trip to the All-Star game. This time, they will
start Tuesday night after getting elected by fans with a fervor for
the new boys of summer.
Some of baseball’s best players are among the youngest on the
field. Night after night, they put up unprecedented numbers and
turn in spectacular plays that belie a birth certificate from the
”It’s good for the game,” Trout said. ”A lot of young guys
are playing fearless and making a name for themselves at an early
stage in their career.”
Not only that, they move merchandise.
Jersey sales for Harvey, Harper and Trout rank among the top 10
this season based on purchases of Majestic tops at MLB.com, the
league and the players’ association said last week.
Harper is 20, and Trout is all of 21. Barely old enough to vote,
let alone buy a drink.
Machado’s jersey ranked eighth, one spot behind Jeter, even
though the Baltimore third baseman has spent less than a year in
the majors. That didn’t stop him from earning his first All-Star
selection on his 21st birthday.
”In today’s era, young dudes are getting better and more
prepared to come up to the big leagues,” said Orioles teammate
Adam Jones, an All-Star himself. ”It’s just an improvement in the
game. These young dudes are phenoms, and he’s put his name up
”He’s probably more mature than I am, and I’m 27.”
Machado was voted in by players, a significant sign of respect
from his peers.
Well, mostly elders, actually. He certainly deserved it at a
power-packed position after hitting 39 doubles in the first half,
threatening the single-season record of 67 set by Earl Webb in
”Swing and hit the white ball coming at you. That’s all it
is,” Machado said. ”There’s no secret to it.”
Just like Little League, apparently. Sometimes he makes it look
that easy, too. But take a swing around the majors and you see it’s
not only Trout, Harper and Machado.
There is Miami rookie Jose Fernandez, a 20-year-old All-Star
with a Cy Young future. Don’t forget lefty Patrick Corbin (23), who
is 11-1 with a 2.35 ERA for Arizona. And second-year shortstop Jean
Segura in Milwaukee, who leads the NL in hits at age 23.
”I feel pretty good when they compare me with those guys,”
Segura said about his place among baseball’s new breed.
Then there’s Harvey, the New York Mets ace with 29 major league
starts to his name. His next one will be Tuesday night on his home
mound opposite Detroit Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer.
”For me, he’s the best pitcher in the game,” Diamondbacks
outfielder Cody Ross said this month. ”Not even just in the
National League. He’s really good. I faced a lot of those guys in
the American League last year and I can’t say that I saw anyone
better than him.
”His mound presence is as good as you’ll see.”
There are 12 All-Stars this season 24 or younger, seven in the
National League. That’s the most since a dozen were selected in
1993, according to STATS – a group that included Ken Griffey Jr.,
Mike Piazza, Gary Sheffield, Mike Mussina and Juan Gonzalez.
The only player from that bunch under 23 was 21-year-old catcher
Ivan Rodriguez. This year, there are four.
That doesn’t include Los Angeles Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig,
left out of the game after six electric weeks in the big leagues at
22. More to come from him, for sure.
”Every guy that you just mentioned plays the game hard, plays
it the right way every day. It’s so much fun to be part of that,”
”I’m not going to back off the throttle at all. I’m full speed
In all, 12 players who qualified as rookies last season made the
All-Star team this year. So much for sophomore slumps.
”There’s definitely a different breed of ballplayer coming
out,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said last weekend. ”This
seems to be one of those cycles where a lot of young players are
Although fresh faces are taking over, that doesn’t mean all the
old guys are out. Mariano Rivera, Torii Hunter, Carlos Beltran and
Bartolo Colon are back at the Midsummer Classic, bringing decades
of experience and wisdom.
And what impresses veterans the most about this crop of young
stars is the way they carry themselves on and off the field. Harper
occasionally flashes a hot temper with Washington, but opponents
predominantly praise them for their all-around skill and steady
”It’s different from when I first came up. Just the attention,
the media coverage, the pressure,” said Twins catcher Joe Mauer, a
No. 1 draft pick who made his first All-Star appearance at 23. ”To
keep everything in perspective and go out there and do your job
every day and stay consistent is really what makes it pretty
”A lot of guys can come up and have immediate success right
away and the league can kind of figure you out a little bit. But
those guys keep going day after day and keep producing.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi is reminded of the mid-90s when
Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra all broke in at
shortstop in the American League.
”It is kind of amazing the level that these young guys are
playing,” Girardi said.
Making them just the sort of stars baseball wants to build
”I like the fact that they play the game the right way. They
seem to get it,” Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan said.
”They’re gifted, they’re energetic. It’s good to see a young,
up-and-coming player that represents not only their franchise well
but the game well.”
AP Sports Writers Tim Booth in Seattle, David Ginsburg in
Baltimore and Steven Wine in Miami contributed.