The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

July 15, 2013

Boys of summer: Young phenoms hit All-Star game

(Continued)

There are 12 All-Stars this season 24 or younger, seven in the National League. That's the most since a dozen were selected in 1993, according to STATS — a group that included Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza, Gary Sheffield, Mike Mussina and Juan Gonzalez.

The only player from that bunch under 23 was 21-year-old catcher Ivan Rodriguez. This year, there are four.

That doesn't include Los Angeles Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig, left out of the game after six electric weeks in the big leagues at 22. More to come from him, for sure.

In all, 12 players who qualified as rookies last season made this All-Star game. So much for sophomore slumps.

"It is kind of amazing the level that these young guys are playing," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who is reminded of the mid-90s when Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra broke in at shortstop in the American League.

Although fresh faces are taking over, that doesn't mean all the old guys are out. Mariano Rivera, Torii Hunter and Carlos Beltran are back, bringing decades of experience and wisdom.

What impresses veterans the most about this group is the way these players carry themselves on and off the field. Harper occasionally flashes a hot temper with Washington, but opponents mostly praise them for their all-around skill and steady performance.

"It's different from when I first came up. Just the attention, the media coverage, the pressure," said Twins catcher Joe Mauer, a No. 1 draft pick who made his first All-Star appearance at 23. "To keep everything in perspective and go out there and do your job every day and stay consistent is really what makes it pretty special.

"A lot of guys can come up and have immediate success right away and the league can kind of figure you out a little bit. But those guys keep going day after day and keep producing."

Making them just the sort of stars baseball wants to build around.

"I like the fact that they play the game the right way. They seem to get it," Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan said. "They're gifted, they're energetic. It's good to see a young, up-and-coming player that represents not only their franchise well but the game well."

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