Kids are al­right

Trout, Harper, Cole, fresh All-Stars high­light the chang­ing face of the game

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY RON­ALD BLUM

Not too long ago, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Ger­rit Cole were the ones pick­ing up the ex­tra balls and get­ting pranked into pay­ing the pricey checks.

Now, along with the likes of Kris Bryant, Matt Har­vey and many oth­ers, they’ve be­come the face of the All-Star Game and the fu­ture of the ma­jor leagues.

“The Derek Jeter gen­er­a­tion in the last few years came to the end of their ca­reers. We have a great new crop of young play­ers,” new Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred said.

This is an age when The Kids are All Right — a record 20 of the 76 All-Stars for Tues­day night’s game are 25 or younger, ac­cord­ing to STATS.

“I think the young tal­ent in base­ball is bet­ter than it’s been in years,” said Yan­kees first base­man Mark Teix­eira, one of the older All-Stars at 35. “These are ex­cit­ing play­ers, play­ers that kids can look up to.”

His for­mer team­mates — base­ball roy­alty, in the form of Mar­i­ano Rivera and Jeter — are gone.

The brash bats who rule the new era be­long to Gian­carlo Stan­ton, Yasiel Puig and Manny Machado, try­ing to solve bold arms led by Chris Archer, Cole and Har­vey.

Ma­jor League Base­ball, which of­ten re­lies on the nos­tal­gia of its 19th-cen­tury roots, is striv­ing to con­nect with 21st-cen­tury youth more fa­mil­iar with Red­dit and Tin­der than Josh Red­dick and Branden Pin­der.

“We’re work­ing very hard to give our fans the kind of ac­cess to those play­ers and oth­ers in or­der to raise their aware­ness of these play­ers,” Man­fred said. “We do re­al­ize we have a chal­lenge in that re­gard be­cause of what I char­ac­ter­ize as gen­er­a­tional change.”

How dif­fer­ent it was in 2011, when Trout was 19 and ar­rived at his first big league camp. Some Los An­ge­les An­gels vet­er­ans in­vited him to din­ner Mas­tro’s City Hall Steak­house in Scotts­dale, Ari­zona. A waiter brought the check, which came to $1,800, and ace pitcher Jeff Weaver handed it to Trout and told him the bill was his to pay.

When Trout ar­rived at Tempe Di­ablo Sta­dium a few days later, he found a toy truck in front of his locker. In­side were 7,200 quar­ters. And Weaver punked the new­bie out­fielder later in spring train­ing with a mes­sage on the right-field score­board, urg­ing fans to call “Mike Trout di­rectly with your base­ball ques­tions” dur­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion game — with his ac­tual cell­phone num­ber, of course.

At 23, Bryant looks more high school stu­dent than big-time ballplayer. Face of the game? He doesn’t think so.

“It is pretty cool to be men­tioned in the same sen­tence as those guys,” he said.

AP PHOTO

Na­tional League’s Kris Bryant, of the Chicago Cubs, dur­ing bat­ting prac­tice Mon­day for the MLB All-Star game in Cincinnati.

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