All-Star Game: Next generation of young players steps into spotlight

By ASSOCIATED PRESS  • 
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Paul Rodriguez | Associated Press
The Angels’ Mike Trout, 21, will start in left field for the AL.

NEW YORK — 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.

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 yesterday at Citi Field. “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 tonight after getting elected by fans.

Some of the best players are among the youngest on the field.

“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.”

Harper is 20, and Trout is 21.

Machado, 21, was voted in by players, a significant sign of respect from his peers.

He certainly deserved it 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.”

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 tonight 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.

There are 12 All-Stars this season 24 or younger, seven in the NL. That’s the most since a dozen were selected in 1993, according to STATS.

In all, 12 players who qualified as rookies last season made the All-Star team this year.

“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.”

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