You would love to be there when Aaron Judge walks into the American League All-Star clubhouse for the first time.Every single player who has done that will tell you pretty much the same thing. That moment, that precise moment, means more than they can put into words.Suddenly, their career is
You would love to be there when Aaron Judge walks into the American League All-Star clubhouse for the first time.
Every single player who has done that will tell you pretty much the same thing. That moment, that precise moment, means more than they can put into words.
Suddenly, their career is different. They have arrived. Sure, there's more they would like to do.
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But that moment symbolizes years of work and of the hopes and dreams of countless people, parents and coaches, teammates and instructors, who helped along the way.
This is one of the best parts of any All-Star Game. It's seeing established stars like Bryce Harper and Buster Posey together in one clubhouse.
But there's nothing better than seeing those first-time All-Stars understand the club of which they're now a member.
Long ago, late Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan spoke of walking into the AL clubhouse, taking off his jacket and looking at the guy at the next locker.
Flanagan wondered who the guy was. He wasn't very tall, altogether unimpressive.
He reached out to shake his hand, saying, "Hi, I'm Mike Flanagan."
"Ron Guidry," the guy responded.
Flanagan was flabbergasted.
"We'd pitched so many big games against one another, but I'd never really spoken to him," Flanagan recalled years later. "Because of his stature in the game, I guess I assumed he was 10 feet tall."
And that's what it's like being a first-time All-Star. Your career is different. Your stature among your peers is different.
We've had 54 first-time All-Stars in the past two All-Star Games as the waves of new talent take over the game.
This contest -- the 88th All-Star Game presented by MasterCard on July 11 in Miami -- promises to have yet more new faces.
Let's consider 10 potential first-time All-Stars who deserve your consideration when you fill out your Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot:
1. Judge, Yankees, OF
.324 BA, 18 HRs, 41 RBIs, 1.110 OPS
Judge is not just a great player, he's an electrifying player. That is, he has the ability to change a game with one swing of the bat. Judge is not the only reason the Yankees are one of baseball's surprise teams in 2017, but it's a stretch to imagine the Yanks atop the AL East without him.
2. Carlos Correa, Astros, SS
.315 BA, 11 HRs, 39 RBIs, .930 OPS
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow labeled Correa a cornerstone player the moment he made him the No. 1 pick of the 2012 Draft. That he has become. At 22, Correa is the best player on baseball's best team. Since hitting .233 in April, here were his numbers entering play Monday: .377 batting average, nine homers, 31 RBIs in 29 games. Correa hit .417 to help the Astros take a 10-game winning streak into Monday's game in Kansas City.
3. Zack Cozart, Reds, SS
.344 BA, 9 HRs, 33 RBIs, 1.054 OPS
Cozart is 31 years old and in his seventh season, which will make the All-Star Game more special than it might be for some of the younger players. Inside the game, he has been universally respected for his makeup, defense and aptitude. Cozart's offense has soared in 2017.
4. Corey Dickerson, Rays, OF/DH
.336 BA, 13 HRs, 26 RBIs, .979 OPS
The Rays got Dickerson from the Rockies for two pitchers in January 2016 because they were desperate for offense. In his second season, that's what he has provided for a team that has increased its offense from 4.1 runs per game to 4.6. Dickerson has been good enough to put himself in the AL MVP Award mix.
5. Miguel Sano, Twins, 3B
.303 BA, 14 HRs, 43 RBIs, 1.016 OPS
Sometimes, a guy turns out to be every bit as good as he was supposed to be. The Twins saw Sano as a player good enough to build an entire franchise around. After some ups and downs, that's exactly what he has become. Sano is still only 24 years old and just had his 1,000th plate appearance, so his career arc hasn't been written yet. But he's plenty good enough to be in South Florida in July.
6. Michael Conforto, Mets, OF
.308 BA, 14 HRs, 36 RBIs, 1.038 OPS
Conforto is why there's a write-in spot on the All-Star ballot. That he's not on the ballot says the Mets weren't sure if he was ready after just 166 Minor League games. No rookie in either league has been better than Judge has been across town in New York. But Conforto is very, very close.
7. George Springer, Astros, OF
.280 BA, 16 HRs, 37 RBIs, .895 OPS
Baseball's best team feeds off Springer's energy, baserunning and acrobatic outfield play. Oh, and there are those 16 home runs. The Astros entered Monday 108-66 since manager A.J. Hinch moved him into the leadoff spot. Springer batted .230 in April, but hit .435 with seven homers during Houston's 10-game winning streak.
8. Jake Lamb, D-backs, 3B
.280, 14 HRs, 46 RBIs, .927 OPS
Lamb leads all National League third basemen in RBIs and is tied for the NL lead in home runs among third basemen. He's in a tough fight for a roster spot, with Nolan Arenado, Kristopher Bryant, Anthony Rendon and Eugenio Suarez in the mix.
9. Avisail Garcia, White Sox, OF
.330 BA, 8 HRs, 38 RBIs, .902 OPS
Just when some wondered if Garcia would ever be the star he was once projected to, he's having a breakout season. The AL outfield competition is crowded, but Garcia has more than done enough to have earned a spot.
10. Eric Thames, Brewers, 1B
.273 BA, 15 HRs, 29 RBIs, 1.018 OPS.
Thames would be one of the coolest stories in South Florida: A 30-year-old who reinvented his swing during three years in Korea. He has cooled off some since hitting .345 with 11 homers in April, and he still has to adjust as pitchers adjust to him. Thames' numbers are still plenty good enough.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.