First-time All-Stars Justin Upton, Adam Jones look like they belong
ST. LOUIS -- When he first found out he was going to the All-Star Game,
On that last point at least, it was Upton who soon set the agenda. "I texted him [Monday] morning to ask him if he was wearing jeans or slacks," said Haren, a veteran of two All-Star Games. "He said he was wearing jeans, so I wore jeans."
True to form, Upton proved a quick study and a leader at a young age, the very traits that have landed him in the Midsummer Classic for the first time at 21, making him the youngest player here. Haren has called Upton "a special player" and "our Most Valuable Player this season," high praise coming from a man who's in contention for the Cy Young award.
Upton's eye-popping talent is certainly rare for a player so young, but he isn't the only one in St. Louis who combines extraordinary ability with youth. If Upton has a counterpart on the American League side, it is
Upton and Jones had better get the first-time jitters out of the way, because if the script laid out by their talents and ages are any indication, they will soon be regulars at the Midsummer Classic. Sports are built on the promise of new stars succeeding the old, and at an All-Star Game that's notably missing both
There are 26 first-time All-Stars here, but Jones and Upton are by far the most likely to become fixtures. Though they play for floundering teams -- Upton's D-backs are 18 1/2 games out in the NL West with a 38-51 record while Jones' Orioles are 40-48, last in the AL East -- their profiles have soared this season.
Upton, the younger brother of Tampa Bay Rays outfielder
Both are former first-round draft picks, and both entered pro ball in the drug-testing years (Upton went first overall in 2005 and Jones was the 37th pick in 2003), giving them welcome relief from suspicions that cloud so many others. Off the field, teammates and coaches rave about their work habits, and on the field, they are complete players with well-rounded skill sets. "[Upton] can beat you in every facet of the game," said Braves catcher
Red Sox pitcher
Despite this being their first All-Star Game, Jones and Upton have been household names in the baseball community for some time. Upton first arrived on the scene as B.J.'s younger brother in the Virginia-based youth baseball circuit that also produced
Upton's gifts led to his being taken first overall by Arizona in 2005, and he reached the majors the next year at 19. The less-heralded Jones took a different path. He grew up in San Diego and was drafted by the Mariners, becoming not only their top prospect but one of the most promising players in the game. He debuted with Seattle in 2006 but was traded to Baltimore before the 2008 season in the
It was on that road trip that Jones was told he would be an All-Star for the first time. "My manager [
By week's end the nerves will be gone and the two men will resume their careers at the forefront of the game's new wave of talent, with both pointing toward making this event an annual part of their summers. "This is awesome," said Upton, who added the exact words Jones would soon say himself. "Hopefully this isn't the last."