MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota pulled up a chair Tuesday as the stars descended upon Target Field. Power, speed and savvy filled the lineup cards, and it was just a matter of how all these skills would spill out on the field during the Midsummer Classic.
But what went down Tuesday might be remembered as the great transition between the first two hitters in the American League’s lineup.
Hall of Fame-bound Derek Jeter ended his All-Star Game career in style, while Mike Trout, whose journey might put him on a similar path, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after driving in two runs, including the decisive run in the fifth inning, to help the AL down the NL 5-3 on a comfortably cool night at Target Field.
Trout, 22, is the second-youngest player to be named All-Star Game MVP, ahead of only Ken Griffey Jr. in 1992.
Think of how young Trout is. Remember that he is already a three-time All-Star. Extrapolate that.
In a recent interview with the Star Tribune, outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig called Jeter “the face of baseball.”
The race to replace the face might already be over. Trout has been identified by some as one of those worthy of succeeding Jeter. And his night Tuesday, where he went 2-for-3 with a double, triple and the two RBI, could be one of many more nights in which the Los Angeles Angels outfielder stands out among the best.
“I think anybody who’s a fan of the game will certainly pick this game to pay close attention to it,” said AL manager John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox. “When you see two guys — I don’t want to say at the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their career — two extremely talented guys, one a surefire Hall of Famer and one who has a darn good start on a career that is hopefully long and productive.”
Trout, who grew up in New Jersey wanting to be Jeter, was asked if he’s thought about the torch being passed to him.
“No, it’s … growing up, watching him on TV, the way he plays, growing up I was setting goals to myself that when I get, if I ever get the chance to get to the big leagues, that’s how I want to play,” Trout said. “And the way he carries himself on and off the field, how he respects the game. Always hustling, it doesn’t matter what the score is. If they are down 10 runs, he is always running the ball out. That’s how I want to play.”
Jeter, the longtime New York Yankees captain, was serenaded with applause for 63 seconds before his first at-bat. National League starter Adam Wainwright stepped onto the grass behind the mound and waited, then watched Jeter sock his second pitch for a double down the right field line. Jeter was in scoring position as Trout dug in.
Trout followed Jeter with a drive to right that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig made a meal out of as it bounced off the wall, enabling Trout to show off his speed as he raced to third with an RBI triple. Jeter and Trout hooking up for the first run of the game — the baseball practically was a baton.
Trout lined out to left in the third inning, but came back in the fifth with an RBI double off third baseman Aramis Ramirez’s glove that broke a 3-3 tie.
Jeter was removed before the start of the fourth inning for the Chicago White Sox’s Alexei Ramirez. Jeter received a long round of applause as he hugged every player and coach in the AL dugout before popping back onto the field to accept a curtain call.
Trout was removed after the sixth inning by Oakland’s Brandon Moss — while Jeter teased him.
“He said he wanted me to play nine innings,” Trout said, laughing. “He said I am 22 years old coming out of the game, it is the sixth inning, I should be playing nine.”
But Trout would return to the field after the game, to accept his MVP award and his Chevy prize. He had a choice: take the Silverado or the Corvette?
“When they came out and told me I got a choice, I was pretty pumped,” Trout said. “I got my dad a truck a couple of weeks ago, so I probably would have chosen the truck if I hadn’t done that. But I have to go with the sports car.”
Jeter teasing Trout, wondering if that’s all he’s got? Baseball hopes not. There’s a vacancy in the “face of the game” department next year. Trout better have a lot more left in him.