- The average age of major league rosters on Opening Day 2019 was 28.92, up from last year’s 28.91 but steadily down from past seasons. The game's youth movement is now taking hold in the All-Star Game.
CLEVELAND — Perhaps you have heard by now that this will be one of the youngest All-Star Games in history. Perhaps you have read about the 19 players who are under 26 years old, the 10 under 25. Perhaps you have seen the National League’s starting lineup, plucked from a nearby nursery school, with an average age of 25.8 years old.
Well, Clayton Kershaw, ancient at 31, has had about enough of it. He thinks of MLB’s current ad campaign and he shakes his head.
“This whole 'Let the Kids Play' thing, I’m not into it,” he says, gray hairs sprouting from his nose as he speaks. “I think 'Let the Grown Men Play' and 'Let the Kids Go Play Something Else.'”
(By the way, he adds, “I prefer veteran as opposed to ancient.”)
The youth movement has not just affected AARP members such as Kershaw. The trend has taken hold across baseball: The average age of major league rosters on Opening Day 2019 was 28.92, up from last year’s 28.91 but steadily down from past seasons.
The White Sox’ James McCann, who at 29 hobbled to media day with the help of a cane, grew up watching players such as Jamie Moyer, who last appeared in a game at 49, in 2012; baseball has not seen a player that elderly since. There have been more 20-year-old major leaguers (three) this season than 40-year-olds (two).
This is especially apparent this week, with the best of the game on display. When men who can’t grow a beard are the majority, men who can’t rent a car suddenly must contemplate their own mortality.
“It’s so weird,” says the White Sox’ Lucas Giolito, wise at 24. “It goes by so fast. I remember being the young prospect. It was a few years ago when I debuted, I was 21 years old, and now—man, that’s funny. Twenty-four and I’m in the middle. I’m, like, average age.”
So how do you communicate with Gen Z? By text, first of all. Then, when they’re not shooing the kids off their lawn, Millennials search for common ground. The Red Sox’ Mookie Betts, at 26 ready for a few grandchildren to spoil, leans on his hip-hop knowledge. The Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon, who is 33 and keeps misplacing his dentures, has been working on his jargon. “Mostly baseball slang,” he says, “Like, ‘That was a bullet’ or ‘That was a really nasty pitch.’”
The Orioles’ John Means, who entered this season with seven days of service time but at 26 is shopping for a timeshare in Boca Raton, is in worse shape.
“I don’t know,” he says. “I’m into the stock market. I read The New York Times. So I’m gonna have to Google how to play Fortnite or something.”
As the 25-year-olds gather for a 4 p.m. dinner to reminisce about old times, at least they can hope that all these children might help get the attention of other children—children who could become lifelong baseball fans.
That may already have happened. Sunday’s Futures Game rosters featured five 24-year-olds. They also featured 21-year-old Double-A outfielder Taylor Trammell, who said that his favorite player “growing up” was the Angels’ Mike Trout, who will be 28 next month. Through his bifocals, Trout looks aghast at that news. “I don’t even know how to answer that,” he says.
The Astros’ Alex Bregman, 25 and carrying wadded-up tissues in his sleeves, is defiant.
“If 25’s old,” he says, “I’m gonna try to be old at this game for the next 15 years.”
In the meantime, they try to dispense advice. The Rays’ Brandon Lowe, who is 25 but looks no older than 24, recommends regularly applying sunscreen.
The Braves’ Freddie Freeman, 29 and tired of being reminded that he is the oldest starting position player on the National League roster, is used to life with whippersnappers running around: Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mike Soroka, both 21 and the two youngest players at the All-Star Game, also play for Atlanta. Freeman’s tip: Take a step back and soak it in, because you don’t know how many of these you’re gonna get.
Kershaw is at Midsummer Classic No. 8, but he will do just that this week. And then, taking care not to break a hip, he will load his wheelchair onto the plane and head to his nursing home.