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Youth is "being served this season, and accordingly in today's All-Star Game; it's storming baseball's gates," according to a sports section cover story by Steve Wieberg of USA TODAY. Elias Sports Bureau stats indicate that Nationals RF Bryce Harper and Angels CF Mike Trout are "are among 19 of this year's All-Star selections yet to turn 26 -- the most in nearly half a century." Rangers SS Elvis Andrus (23), Cubs SS Starlin Castro (22), Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw (24) and Braves P Craig Kimbrel (24) all are making their second All-Star appearances this year. Kimbrel said, "Organizations used to want to have more veterans, more leadership, more guys like that in the clubhouse. Nowadays, they're letting guys have a chance at a younger age." Wieberg notes the 19-year-old Harper is the "third-youngest All-Star player selected for an All-Star Game," behind pitchers Dwight Gooden and Bob Feller. The largely young All-Star rosters "reflect the course of the 2012 season." Twenty-five-year-old Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen "leads the majors with a .362 batting average," and the 20-year-old Trout leads the AL in hitting and stolen bases. Five of the NL's top seven homer hitters "are 26 or younger," while four of the AL's five wins leaders "also fall into that age bracket." Braves 3B Chipper Jones, who plans to retire after this season at the age of 40, said of the youth movement, "It's good for the game. Especially when you've got guys who are as talented and have as good a head on their shoulders as they do -- like Harper and Trout. These guys are going to be the faces of baseball for a long, long time" (USA TODAY, 7/10).
TWO FOR THE SHOW: In K.C., Kent Babb notes as Jones and Yankees SS Derek Jeter "ease toward their careers’ twilight, Harper and Trout represent the next generation of baseball greatness." Harper and Trout "have a chance to emerge into stars at the same time, pushing each other toward becoming the young faces of their respective leagues." Babb writes, "This is the kind of thing that happens maybe once every 15 years: two players who arrive in the majors together, acting as their own kind of barometer because their contemporaries can’t keep up." Jones said that if all goes as expected, Harper and Trout "will soon carry their respective leagues' baton." Jones said, "These guys are going to be the face of baseball for the next 20 years, once Derek rides off into the sunset, A-Rod and Pujols. These are going to be the guys that are going to carry the torch" (K.C. STAR, 7/10). In Seattle, Larry Stone writes MLB is "salivating at the prospect of having two new, young, dynamic stars to carry the mantle that Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones, among others, are about to leave behind." In Harper and Trout, MLB has "a combo package almost too good to be true." Both are "charismatic and flashy," and both play the game "with old-school aggression" (SEATTLE TIMES, 7/10). MLB Network’s Kevin Millar said, “This is a new generation coming up. You’re looking at two superstars in Trout and Bryce Harper that are young position players we haven’t seen in awhile. ... You’ve got this new generation that’s coming in." MLB Network's Chris Rose: “Big picture, it’s better for the sport that a kid like Bryce Harper is here" ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 7/9). ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian said of Harper, "Let’s not underestimate what he has done for a first-place team in Washington. I can tell you he has energized that team.” Kurkjian added, “It’s not like they just put him on (the All-Star team), ‘Hey, he’s a really good story.’ This guy’s had a really good first half of the year.” ESPN’s Aaron Boone said Trout “is as dynamic a player that’s come to the Major Leagues in a long time." Boone: "For me, absolutely the American League MVP so far this season” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/10).
THE CHOSEN ONE: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale in a front-page piece writes, "Superstardom seemed to be Harper's destiny," and he has "taken the first few steps toward fulfilling that." In a sport that "lacks a LeBron James or a Tim Tebow, Harper comes closest to establishing a cult of personality that helps the sport penetrate demographics as disparate as Deadspin or 'SportsCenter.'" Nationals 2B Mark DeRosa said, "What he's done, nobody in baseball has ever done. His story is absolutely amazing" (USA TODAY, 7/10). In Oakland, Monte Poole writes, "It's refreshing to see Harper now being rewarded with an invitation to join" the NL All-Star team. He "was not the most deserving choice" to replace injured Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton, but "none of the other candidates is more captivating." MLB typically is "slow to acknowledge its truly phenomenal youngsters, much less capitalize on them." Having Harper "among the festivities is indicative of the sport realizing not only is this an exhibition with stakes but also a showcase event." NL manager Tony La Russa said, "It's been really good for our game to see Trout and Harper come into the game." Poole writes, "They're good players, yes, but including Harper and Trout is indicative of the kind of marketing genius that usually eludes MLB" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 7/10).
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday held his 12th annual MLB.com Town Hall Chat, and generally stayed well away from any sensitive topics while eagerly touting the rising popularity of the sport. "Someday we'll look back at this era as the golden era of baseball, no question about it," Selig said. "They'll look at attendance numbers, revenue numbers, popularity, and say, 'Wow, for a sport many people in the last 50 or 70 years have written off, it's a great story.'" Selig said he was "very satisfied" on balance with the outcomes and performance of the league's five-year CBA to date. Moreover, he said the league's extended labor peace, guaranteed at least 21 straight years, has been a boon for the sport. "We're going to have a generation of people who aren't going to have to struggle with a work stoppage. I'm very proud of that," he said. He noted some improvement has occurred this season in enforcing rules already in the books to eliminate unnecessary delays during games. "The umpires are trying to enforce it. The managers have been better. I think we've made some progress. It's something that we need to watch," he said. Selig also was predictably bullish on the prospect of MLB sustaining the league's increase at the gate, more than 6% thus far this season.
WORLD MARKET: Selig, unsurprisingly, is expecting big results from the third iteration of the World Baseball Classic, which is co-owned and operated by the league and the MLBPA. The '13 WBC includes a new qualifying round that begins this fall. "It's grown. We're up to 28 countries, everybody wanting in," he said. "I want to go to different parts of the world that we haven't gone to. So my expectation is it's going to be huge and really meaningful." However, Selig was lukewarm on the prospect of international games, even as he wants to make further inroads in areas such as Europe. He said games at Lord's Cricket Ground in London, "would be historic, but I don't know about great."