Younger and younger
Trout, Harper, Cole, fresh All-Stars highlight changing face of the game
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 cheques.
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 tonight’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.
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 cheque, 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.
“It was pretty creative of them,” said Trout, now a fourtime All-Star and winner of an MVP award. “It’s part of breaking into the big leagues.”
At 23, Bryant looks more high school student than big-time ballplayer. He made his big league debut in April, and his 12 homers and 51 RBIs have given Chicago Cubs’ fans hope of a first World Series title since 1908.
Cole, a new All-Star at age 24, hopes to bring the Pirates their first title since 1979.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, left, talks with Detroit Tigers infielder Jose Iglesias during Monday’s batting practice for the All-Star game.