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MLB All-Star Game Notebook: Young blood bringing excitement to AL-NL clash

Jul 9, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies (1) and right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) celebrate after defeating the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 9, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies (1) and right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) celebrate after defeating the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER — Major League Baseball has turned its midsummer classic into a youth movement.

The MLB All-Star Game at Coors Field will have a record 40 first-time players, and many of them are the young superstars that have electrified fans in 2021.

The most heralded is Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani, 27, who will make history as the starting pitcher and as the DH for the American League. It is his first time playing the All-Star Game, but he’s not the youngest.

The NL features some of the best young players including San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. (22 years old), Ozzie Albies (24) of the Atlanta Braves and Juan Soto (22) of the Washington Nationals. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (22) and Bo Bichette (23) of Toronto are two of the young stars on the AL roster.

The young players have crashed the baseball scene and made an immediate impact, and other players are glad to see it.

“I can’t imagine being in the league at 20 years old, 21, 22,” said New York Yankees 29-year-old outfielder Aaron Judge Monday. “That’s so tremendous. It’s such an accomplishment to do what they do up here. I think of Tatis, Vlady Jr., what Bo Bichette’s doing, it’s something special. Growing the game around those guys that are going to be in this league for 10, 15 years is the right way to go.

“You’re going to have a fan base grow around those guys.”

Atlanta’s 31-year-old first baseman Freddie Freeman, who plays with two of those bright young stars, Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr., with the Braves, is amazed at how quickly they have made their presence felt.

“When I came up the young guys didn’t make that immediate impact,” he said. “It took me a couple of years to get my feet wet. These guys come up now and are game changers.”

YOU WILL BE MISSED: Acuna is on the roster but he suffered a torn right ACL on Saturday and is out for the season — and beyond.

“That’s something that’s very unfortunate,” NL manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s a fun, fun, bright young superstar. For the guys that couldn’t make it, I understand it. It’s disappointing.”

HOMETOWN FEEL: Colorado Rockies pitcher German Marquez is on the All-Star roster and teammate, shortstop Trevor Story, competed in the Home Run Derby, but those weren’t the only Colorado players basking in the All-Star glow this week.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Kevin Gausman, San Diego closer Mark Melancon and Bichette have ties to the state. Gausman and Melancon played high school baseball near Denver, and Bichette was born when his father, Dante, played for the Rockies. He later lived in the area when his father was Colorado’s hitting coach from 2012-13.

“There’s a flurry of players coming from Colorado,” Gausman said. “The talent that’s here is maybe not as polished as some states but there’s just as much talent; they just don’t get to play as many games. They don’t get the experience of throwing 200 innings every year, they only throw 30.”

SHORT HOPS: The AL holds a 45-43-2 edge over the NL entering the 91st All-Star Game. In 2019, the last All-Star Game played, the AL won 4-3 for its seventh straight victory. … There were 12 replacements since the rosters were announced July 4. Gausman won’t pitch because he started Sunday’s game for the Giants.

Related: MLB games today – Offseason Schedule

–Field Level Media