Baseball’s young stars will keep you watching the next 161 games

On Friday, Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract extension. After his first at-bat of the 2014 season, the 22-year-old showed why the team might actually be getting off easy, ripping a Felix Hernandez pitch over the left field wall for a two-run homer.

Just over 2700 miles east, the Miami Marlins were wrapping up a 10-1 win over Colorado thanks to a strong six inning, nine strikeout outing by 21-year-old Jose Fernandez, the youngest National League opening day starter since Dwight Gooden in 1986.


It wasn’t a bad day for the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft either. The Washington Nationals’ 23-year-old second baseman, Anthony Rendon, went 2 for 5 with four RBIs in a 9-7 win over the Mets, hitting a three-run homer in the tenth to put his team up for good.


The promise of 161 more regular season games doesn’t render baseball’s opening day any more statistically significant than all of the contests played on May 7, June 23 or any other arbitrary day from now until the beginning of October. But the annual ritual is so enjoyable because of the potential of what it promises from now until fall. Unless you happen to currently be a Mets fan.


There seems to be even more of a spring growth happening this season than usual. If the emergence of Trout, Yasiel Puig and Bryce Harper last season didn’t prove that baseball’s youth movement was alive and well, Monday’s opening day certainly helped drive that point home. Even if the possibility of your favorite team reaching the playoffs is thwarted by Memorial Day, there’s something very exciting about the number of talented players under the age of 25 in the majors right now.


Trout and Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton are already putting up superstar numbers, with Puig and Harper looking ready to make that jump. Add Baltimore’s Manny Machado, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward and Tampa Bay’s Wil Myers to the list along with hurlers like Fernandez, San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner and St. Louis’ Michael Wacha and it’s clear that MLB’s young players are going to be incredibly fun to watch this season.


Even if you happen to be a Mets fan.


More of today’s big winners:


College basketball fans: While we wait until Saturday, here are 11 amazing facts about the 2014 Final Four.


Don Baylor: Best wishes for a speedy recovery to the Angels hitting coach after he suffered a freak broken leg catching Monday’s ceremonial first pitch.


Natalie Achonwa: The Notre Dame forward rallied her teammates after an apparent knee injury forced her out of a crucial Elite Eight game.


Chris Paul: The Clippers star reached out to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery’s son after the 14-year-old’s cancer surgery.


Houston Astros: Because this will be the final year they have to watch Derek Jeter play against them and regret their mistake.


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