Harper and Trout go from farmhands to fame

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A son of former Minnesota minor league infielder Jeff Trout, Mike was taken by the Angels with the 25th pick on the first round of the 2009 amateur draft. Idolizing Derek Jeter, he played shortstop at Millville Senior High in New Jersey until he was moved to the outfield in his senior year. He understands why he lasted so late in the first round.

“A lot of risk. East Coast kid. Didn’t play all year,” he said. “You look at the teams in Florida and California, they’ve got perfect weather all year. They can play all year.”

Harper had the greater renown, on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was just 16 with the headline “CHOSEN ONE.” With sunglasses hanging from the top of his shirt and a neatly cropped beard, he has the big league look. A hint of acne reveals he’s still a teenager.

“So much pressure _ no, I’m just kidding,” he said, joshing with the media.

Joining a Nationals team that already has a top youthful star in ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg, Harper has a .282 batting average with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 63 games. The only younger All-Stars were Bob Feller in 1938 and Dwight Gooden in 1984, both closer to their 19th birthdays than Harper.

“I still feel like I have that kid inside me that wants to play the game of baseball every single day,” Harper said. “I got love and that passion for the game and, hopefully, I can keep it going. I hope I’ll be able to play for the Nationals for a long time and be able to play in the big leagues for a long time because that’s the dream.”

While Harper is polished following years of interviews, Trout projects a golly-gee demeanor, with close-cropped hair and a beaming smile. After he twice crashed into the center-field fence at Denver’s Coors Field last month, teammates Jered Weaver and Dan Haren suggested he turn down the enthusiasm by a few notches.

“It’s a long year. We’re going to need you,” Trout remembered them telling him.

He’s hitting .341 with 12 homers, 40 RBIs and 26 steals in 29 chances.

“I was just telling Jete, I’ve never seen a player hit a triple to left field, down the line,” Yankees ace CC Sabathia said. “Raul (Ibanez) plays it off the wall, and he’s standing on third. That’s just fun to see. What he’s doing is amazing.”

While Trout was an All-Star shoo-in, La Russa appeared reluctant to select Harper and added him on Saturday as a replacement when Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton got hurt.

Even the 67-year-old La Russa, who managed his first World Series champions before they were born, appreciates the focus on the new stars.

“It would be nice to put the National League phenom against the American League phenom,” he said.

When discussing Trout, Harper sounds like a fan.

“He’s fun to watch. I get pumped to watch him,” Harper said.

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