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

league caps.

Mike Trout makes a diving catch on the warning track.

Manny Machado whacks another double into the corner at Camden

Yards.

Bryce Harper belts a tape-measure home run or barrels into a

catcher … or an outfield fence … or whatever stands in his

way.

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.”

No kidding.

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

1990s.

”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

there.

”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

1931.

”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,”

Harper said.

”I’m not going to back off the throttle at all. I’m full speed

every day.”

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

flashing quick.”

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

performance.

”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

special.

”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

around.

”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.