Even though Cody Bellinger has a pedigree that would suggest Major League success — his father played in the MLB and Cody played in the Little League World Series as a kid — this wasn’t supposed to happen. At least not this early.
Not after the 21-year-old started the season in Triple A. But when he hit .343 through 18 games in the Pacific Coast League, the Los Angeles Dodgers called up the rookie in late April.
Since then, he’s slugged 25 home runs and 58 RBI. He also participated in Monday night’s Home Run Derby, where he advanced to the second round before falling to eventual champion Aaron Judge.
“Three months ago, I couldn’t imagine anything like this,” Bellinger said. “From spring training to the first month of Triple A, I couldn’t imagine being here in this spot right now.”
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His rise from Little League ringer to professional stardom was completed Tuesday when he was officially announced as an All-Star at Marlins Park, and he wasn’t alone. This season’s Midsummer Classic featured 28 first-time All-Stars of the 68 total players. And while Bellinger was a reserve for the National League, some of his first-time peers weren’t.
The examples of newcomers start with the Houston Astros, who placed two first-time All-Stars in the AL starting lineup: Carlos Correa at shortstop, and George Springer in left field.
There was, of course, also Judge, the Yankees’ rookie who is leading the majors in home runs. He started in right field for the American League and served as the face for players making their All-Star debuts. As the one every reporter wanted to talk to. As the one who stood in for established stars of past games — like Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Gonzalez and Albert Pujols — who weren’t selected this season.
Cleveland Indians reliever Andrew Miller said he’s noticed a younger generation of players emerging as baseball’s stars. Players like Bryce Harper, 24, Mike Trout, 25, and Bellinger.
“It’s across the board,” he said. “It’s the way the game’s going. I think it’s exciting for fans. There’s a lot of young players coming up, and these guys are ready to play. … Hopefully, we get to see these guys for a long time and they get to have these long careers.”
Lance McCullers, a starting pitcher for the Astros, is another young player who was named a first-time All-Star this season. He said that he also has noticed the youth movement — especially on his own team — but added that at the All-Star Game, he’s just trying to learn as much as he can from guys who have been there before.
“It’s special,” he said. “And it’s something that I’m trying to soak up. Because who knows how many of these things you get to play in.”
Ahead of the contest, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner agreed with McCullers despite making his first All-Star roster at 32 years old. He added he wasn’t just going to absorb advice, but the moment.
“It’s gonna be Opening Day times 1,000,” he said.