Harper, Trout bring youthful energy

Posted: July 11, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Bryce Harper remembered Oct. 27, when just 414 fans were at Scottsdale Stadium to watch his Scorpions play the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.

With the Scorpions down by 7-5, Harper vowed to teammate Brandon Crawford to hit a game-winning home run.

"I'll drop a bomb and walk off the field, tell them we own this place," Harper said.

"Yeah, OK," Mike Trout told him in disbelief.

Trout, the all-star out of Millville High in South Jersey, led off with a single, Scottsdale got another hit with one out, and Harper followed with a home run to right-center field off Jeff Inman.

"Everybody ran inside the clubhouse," Harper said Monday. "It was a great moment."

Still tied together, baseball's youthful dynamic duo will be watched by millions Tuesday night as the All-Star Game returns to Kansas City and Kauffman Stadium for the first time since 1973.

At 19, Harper is the youngest position player in all-star history and a key part of the Washington Nationals' emergence as a first-place team. Trout, a year older, is leading the American League in hitting and helping the Los Angeles Angels turn around their season after a sloppy start.

Coincidentally, both came up to the major leagues on April 28 - Harper for his debut and Trout for his return after a pair of stints last year. They are among a record five rookie all-stars, joined by Texas pitcher Yu Darvish, Oakland closer Ryan Cook, and Arizona pitcher Wade Miley.

In a room full of baseball's best, even the veterans are taking notice of Trout and Harper.

"Speed. Power. Excitement. Youth. Energy," New York Yankees centerfielder Curtis Granderson said. "If they are able to stay healthy, they can completely transform the game as they get, five, 10, 15 years of big-league time."

For now, both will start Tuesday night's game on the bench.

With the result determining home-field advantage in the World Series for the 10th consecutive year, AL manager Ron Washington will start reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander. The National League's Tony La Russa, the first inactive all-star manager since the AL's Bob Lemon in 1979, chose San Francisco's Matt Cain - coming off a perfect game last month.

Return to KC

Much of baseball has been turned upside down since the final out of the World Series last October.

Five no-hitters, including two perfect games. A four-home-run night by Josh Hamilton. Pittsburgh and Washington together in first place for the first time.

If the season ended now, the first year of expanded playoffs would open with Baltimore at the Los Angeles Angels for the one-game AL wild card, with the winner hosting the Yankees in the division series opener. The Chicago White Sox would host two-time AL champion Texas in the other best-of-five series - which for one year only starts at the team with the lesser regular-season record.

In the NL, Cincinnati would host Atlanta for the wild card, with the winner hosting the Nationals - a franchise whose only postseason appearance was as the Montreal Expos in 1981. The Pirates, out of the postseason since Francisco Cabrera's two-out, two-run hit for Atlanta in 1992, would host the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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