Harper-Trout rivalry could be one for the ages
Young All-Stars don't forget to show respect toward veteran players
KANSAS CITY -- Bird and Magic?
OK, it's probably a stretch to think Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will ever have that kind of rivalry. As comparisons go, it's a good place to start.
The thing is, their careers are off to such flying starts that absolutely anything seems possible.
"I'm Bird," Harper said.
Take a deep breath, kid.
This All-Star Game has 26 first-time participants, which is actually the fewest in five years. There are a record five rookies, but one of those is 25-year-old Yu Darvish, who was an established star in Japan.
The thing that makes this All-Star Game have a different feel is the presence of 19-year-old Bryce Harper and 20-year-old Mike Trout.
They're not just young players, either. They're young stars. They've looked comfortable from when they were summoned to the Major Leagues in late April, and with both of their teams in contention, they could find themselves on the game's biggest stage for a long time.
If Major League Baseball gets really lucky, they'll be compared to one another the way Magic Johnson and Larry Bird once were.
It was never about individual statistics as much as championships won and performing at the highest level when the game meant the most.
"Being able to see him do well and being able to see all of the rookies do well in baseball, I think it's great for the game," Harper said, "and he's going to play this game for a long time. I think having just everybody around, it's going to be a lot of fun for the fans to watch. It's going to be good."
Harper then went one step further.
"I hope I play with him one day," he said. "I think him playing center field and me playing right field, it will be a one-two punch. "
Trout came to this All-Star Game hoping for a chance to visit with his idol, Derek Jeter, and to soak in the moment. Harper said he wanted to simply fit in and be respectful of those around him.
In that way, they both seem to get it. They understand that playing at a high level and being popular with fans is one thing. Inside the clubhouse, respect is measured differently.
"I think that you have to give respect to get respect," Harper said. "You have to really earn it from the veteran guys that have played this game for a long time. They went through all of the grinds of playing in the Minor Leagues and through the grinds of playing for a lot of years."
When Harper told reporters he would vote for Chipper Jones instead of himself for the final roster spot, he said he was being completely honest.
"He's been in this game for 20 years," Harper said. "He's a Hall of Famer. He's the face of that Braves franchise, and any day of the week, I'm picking him. You just have to try to earn respect from them and treat them with the utmost respect. They have been there and done that. You know, I've been here for 28 days. I haven't done anything in this game yet.
"I think coming into these clubhouses, you just try to sit back and just watch what everybody's doing and try to just see what they are saying, fit in a little bit and talk. You're around the best players in baseball, so it's a great time to be here, and it's a lot of fun. You just try to learn from them a little bit and take something from everybody. So coming into this year, you just try to have as much fun as you can, and just try to smile while you're here and try to win."
Trout said pretty much the same thing. He said he'd come here to watch how the game's best players conduct themselves and to attempt to learn from them.
"That's the way you've got to look at it, you know," Trout said. "You've got to earn your way and earn your respect. If you don't give it, you're not going to get it back. That's the way I look at it."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.