The All-Star break is a long standing tradition, and in the game of baseball tradition is something held very close to the game. The history and tradition behind baseball is unlike any other sport, which is why the MLB All-Star festivities stand above all other sports. The NBA All-Star tradition is one that rivals the MLB with the always entertaining Slam Dunk Contest, while the NFL's Pro Bowl is laughable at best. The tradition that MLB holds so highly is reflected in the All-Star break, when we get to see the most loved veterans and franchise players grace the field for a few days of fun and getting to relax while enjoying the game. While tradition is held tightly in the MLB things are starting to change, fast. The days of franchise veterans gracing the field; such as Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Derek Jeter, and pretty much anyone on the Red Sox or Yankees are fading quickly. We are entering a new era of baseball, a new generation where it is not the veterans and long-time players that are represented as the best in the game. Now we're starting to see incredibly young, impossibly talented players highlight the cream of the crop in the MLB. No more 2 MVP's and World Series champion type players, now it's all about the 20 year old kid from Cuba or the Angel from New Jersey who's barely old enough to drink.
We're starting to see a shift in balance from one end of the general spectrum to the other, and it's shifted fast. Case in point, the Home Run Derby. Earlier this week when the derby commenced we saw many veteran stars like Chris Davis, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, and others take up the bat to entertain and compete on the big field. However, it was not any of these accomplished veterans that stole the show, it was 20-year old phenom Bryce Harper and the second-year slugger Yoenis Cespedes. This is a major shift from what we've seen the last decade where your status on the All-Star team was determined by whether or not you wore a Red Sox or Yankees jersey and how much the fans adored you, whether or not you hit .223 with 15 HR's on the first-half. The All-Star game was always about who got the media attention, and at the start of last year Mike Trout and Bryce Harper proved that it doesn't take a big name and a long career to earn a ticket to the All-Star game.
In 2012 Mike Trout was a month behind everyone else in the major leagues and despite this he was still able to put up better numbers than anyone else, hitting almost .350 with 12 HR's and 40 RBI's. His explosive entrance into the majors captivated the media, the fans, and his fellow players attention. At the tender age of 20 Mike Trout was already being named the face of baseball, right behind Derek Jeter of course. This wasn't an isolated incident however. After Mike Trout exploded on the scene a floodgate of young, superstar talent came flooding into the scene. Bryce Harper followed suit by finishing off the year strong after lulling midway into the year, than absolutely destroying in 2013. Manny Machado came up with the Orioles and showed that someone can indeed fill the shoes left behind by the great Cal Ripken Jr. Matt Harvey, at the age of 24, gave everyone in the NL a run for their money, pitchers and hitters alike. On top of that Yasiel Puig did what Mike Trout did on the other side of LA, captivating the media and the game of baseball merely a year after Trout.
It's not that we're just seeing a handful of young players showing superstar dominance, the talented youth are flooding in at all levels of the game including pitchers like Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs from the D'Backs. This isn't about talented youth getting to show off in an All-Star game, this is about the league being taken over by kids almost half as old as some of the most talented veteran players across the league. The All-Star representation is slowly beginning to reflect this, and in a few years the Midsummer Classic will be completely dominated by people under the age of 30. This is just a classic case of evolution and the human race getting better and better and better. Kids are coming up through the minor league system stronger, faster, more durable, just overall better than their predecessors. Mike Trout might have been the first, but he certainly won't be the last. Trout's emergence into the MLB was the beginning of this influx of incredibly talented young players breaking through the majors, and because he was the first he will be remembered forever in baseball history. Pretty soon the day might come where we're seeing kids breaking into the Majors at 16 or 17, coming in right out of high school and blasting through if not outright skipping the minor league system. That'll be a pretty sad day for me as I recollect how I spent my years at 16 sitting on my ass eating junk food and playing terrible video games. Kids at 20 are coming into the game and having better seasons than the best season had by the Derek Jeters of the world, by all logic this shouldn't be happening, but it is and we're all loving it.
The All-Star game gives these kids a chance to showcase their talent and bask in the glow of being the best of the best. As a kid this kind of confidence can absolutely fuel them to go above and beyond what they were doing previous to the experience. Confidence works differently for young adults as it does for those in the older generations. While the veterans know what they're capable of and use their confidence to live this out these young adults like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have no idea what they're capable of. They don't know their ceilings, and at the age of 20 and 21 they're only going to get better and better. The collected confidence from the experience of All-Star fame could allow these kids to just blast through their ceilings and reach levels never thought possible. Mike Trout could very well become a 40-40 player before the age of 25 while Bryce Harper could see himself smash 50 bombs when he fully grows into himself.
Allowing these uber-talented kids showcase their abilities on the second biggest stage next to the World Series isn't just showcasing strong talent, it's cultivating the future of baseball. Many people see the All-Star game as useless fun, but pretty soon it will have a meaning more important than it ever has. On the surface the ASG will appear to be a exhibition battle for World Series homefield advantage, but soon it will have a more powerful yet subtle effect on promoting competition between the youth of the game and pushing talent to progress. We're about to see a whole new game of baseball with the new generation breaking through, and with this youth the All-Star game is going to be the place to be for the next decade.
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