SAN DIEGO -- The main attraction was at the end of the row of tables, where, at the center of a semicircle three media persons deep, sat a 10-time All-Star regaling the crowd with stories and perspective. David Ortiz, one of six Red Sox named to the American League All-Star
SAN DIEGO -- The main attraction was at the end of the row of tables, where, at the center of a semicircle three media persons deep, sat a 10-time All-Star regaling the crowd with stories and perspective. David Ortiz, one of six Red Sox named to the American League All-Star roster, absorbed all the attention in this, his final All-Star experience.
But as Ortiz continues his farewell season, all he had to do was look to his right on Monday afternoon to see the new and forming foundation for the organization he's leaving behind. There sat Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., all first-time All-Stars, all part of the promising young core that helped carry the Red Sox to 49 first-half wins.
"These kids have gotten better every day," Ortiz said. "They understand the responsibility. Playing in Boston, it's a market that asks for a lot. If you can play at the highest level in that market, you can play anywhere."
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The three young position players, all fan-elected starters, were joined also by 31-year-old Steven Wright, a first-time All-Star who resurrected his career with the knuckleball.
"It's incredible," Wright said. "When you see Mookie and Jackie and Xander and you have other guys who aren't here but could be, it's nice. They're young. I'm not. But they make me feel young because they have so much energy."
Betts and Bogaerts are the first Red Sox teammates age 23 or younger since Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr in 1941 to be named to an All-Star team. The pair also has the two highest first-half hit totals in franchise history for a player 23 or younger. Each tallied 117.
Many folks around the Red Sox thought Bogaerts, who the organization signed out of Aruba in 2009, deserved to be an All-Star last year. This season, he left no doubt he belonged, combining his high average with an increase in power. A Silver Slugger Award winner in 2015, Bogaerts posted a first-half slugging percentage of .863.
He'll hit fifth in the AL starting lineup on Tuesday, just behind cleanup hitter Ortiz and ahead of Betts (seventh) and Bradley. (ninth).
"Being here with all these young guys on the team -- and we still have some more in the organization -- it's unbelievable," Bogaerts said.
Betts (fifth round) and Bradley (first round) were both members of the Red Sox's 2011 Draft class. Roommates in instructional league, they are now All-Stars together.
"Playing together for a while, I don't know if we ever dreamed of playing in an All-Star Game together," Betts said. "You always dream of playing in the big leagues together for a long time. For it to be my first and their first, as well, I definitely think it's a special moment."
Since making his Major League debut in 2014, Betts has emerged as one of the most dynamic young outfielders in the game. His offensive skill set is diverse -- Betts entered the break batting .304, slugging .525 and having swiped 15 bases -- and his defensive play can be dazzling.
Bradley, 26, did not ascend so quickly, but everything has clicked for him in 2016. Two years after hitting .198 in 127 big league games, Bradley strung together a 29-game hitting streak this season that included 20 extra-base hits.
These three, along with Wright, savored the moment on Sunday when, en route to San Diego, Ortiz commanded their attention mid-air. Enjoy the All-Star experience, the veteran emphasized. And be proud to take the torch.
"I think that kind of symbolizes everything," Bradley said. "He's looking back on his career, what an amazing career he had. And we're the so-called younger guys who are starting to develop into some pretty good players. Hopefully we continue to grow."
All-Star Game coverage begins tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com.