Young Stars Shined in the Return of MLB All-Star Week
The 2021 MLB All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado shined a bright light on the exciting young talent that will carry professional baseball into its next era.
For the 20th time in the past 24 years, the American League beat the National League in the Midsummer Classic, using great pitching and offensive production from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Xander Bogaerts to win 5-2.
It was refreshing to see some of the best players in baseball battling it out again after the league took a hiatus from the All-Star Game in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MLB, a league which is often criticized for failing to market their young talent to prospective fans, used the 2021 Home Run Derby and All-Star Game to change that perception.
Los Angeles Angels international star Shohei Ohtani was selected as the starting pitcher and lead-off hitter for the AL one day after he participated in the Home Run Derby. Ohtani, who has a league-leading 33 home runs, brought in viewers for the derby despite the fact that he fell short in the first round by losing to Washington Nationals young star Juan Soto.
Pete Alonso, the first baseman for the New York Mets crushed 35 home runs in the first round of the derby before beating Soto in the second round and Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles in the final round to win his second consecutive Derby Title. This year is only the 26-year-old slugger's third season in the MLB.
Out of the combined 18 starting position players, 10 were playing in their first All-Star game. From those 10 players, many of them are younger than 25 years old. This includes Guerrero Jr., San Diego Padres superstar Fernando Tatis Jr., and Boston Redsox star Rafael Devers. Ronald Acuña Jr., another one of the best young players in the MLB, missed out on All-Star week due to a torn ACL that he suffered on Saturday. However, when he is healthy, the 23-year-old is a must-watch superstar for the Atlanta Braves
Guerrero Jr. blasted a 468-foot home run in the third inning and added a RBI-groundout in the fifth inning to become the youngest All-Star Game MVP at 22 years old.
Ohtani received the 2021 All-Star Game win after he pitched a clean first inning. Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendricks earned the game's save with a scoreless ninth inning, and Guerrero Jr. won the game's MVP. Each of these players are international stars. Ohtani is from Japan, Hendricks is from Australia, and Guerrero Jr. was born in Canada but spent most of his childhood in the Dominican Republic.
These three stars are just a brief example of how the game of baseball has grown internationally, and that will be a big deal for the MLB going forward. For example, the growing contingent of fans in Japan that have followed the 27-year-old Ohtani's historic season is an excellent benchmark for marketing the MLB as a "global game."
For baseball fans, the return of All-Star Week was a treat, but the MLB also did a good job of putting its many young and international stars on display for casual viewers to enjoy.
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