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2014 Minnesota Gameday HQ Round 2

a year after that tryout before Puig set the baseball world on its ear. On June 3, 2013, Puig made a spectacular throw after a running catch to complete a game-ending double play. By the following week he had four homers, 10 RBI and NL Player of the Week honors. At the end of the month he was hitting .436 with 44 hits, second all time only to Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio for hits in a debut month in the big leagues. Drawing comparisons to Bo Jackson for his sheer physicality, and becoming a lightning rod for his flamboyant style, Puig finished the season hitting .319 with 19 home runs, 66 runs, 42 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Davis saw Puig perform in the minor leagues as well as the big leagues, and was impressed with the talent, though he’d like to see it on display over an entire season before putting Puig in the same discussion with players like Trout and McCutchen. “If any young kid has the ability to do that, it would be Puig,” says Davis. “He still has a lot to learn. As far as the physical attributes, all of that is there. But that comes with 600 at-bats every year. Until you learn to do that on a repetitive basis, I don’t give that to too many people.” If there is a player who most resembles Davis in today’s game, it may be the 6-3 Gomez. Though a little more filled out than the sinewy Davis, Gomez is a blur in the outfield and has robbed plenty of home runs over the last two seasons since he started playing full time for the Brewers. Gomez is a testament to patience with talented but raw players. From his debut in 2007 with the Mets as a 21-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Gomez was the poster child for the five-tool player who was not realizing his talent because his bat was lagging behind his other skills. It was in 2012, at age 26, that he first became a full-time player, and he responded by hitting 19 home runs with 37 stolen bases and finishing with a .260 average. Last season he was even better, hitting .284 with 24 home runs, 40 stolen bases, 61 extra-base hits, 80 runs and 73 RBI. “He’s coming. I think he’s been a late bloomer,” says Davis. “I think he was always being put in that part-time platoon position. So you could never see him with 500 or 600 at-bats in 155 games until the last couple years where he exploded because he earned the right to play every day.” In the Mile High City in Denver, Colorado’s Gonzalez realized his varied talents with his third organization. The Rockies received Gonzalez in a trade for Matt Holliday, and the smooth Venezuelan began pounding pitchers throughout the big leagues. The swing and the gliding style in the outfield bring back memories of Ken Griffey Jr. And when he connects with the ball, Gonzalez has been one of the most consistent all-around players in baseball. In 2010, his first full season in the big leagues, Gonzalez hit a leagueleading .336 with 34 homers, 26 steals and 117 RBI. Though he battled injures throughout the last three seasons, Gonzalez still hit 26, 22 and 26 home runs while stealing at least 20 bases in every season. Baseball is a better game because of talents like Trout, McCutchen, Puig, Gomez and Gonzalez. That five-tool player is rare, but when the artistry of otherworldly talents like Mays, Aaron, Mantle, Davis or Bonds is on full display for fans everywhere to see, that is when the game is raised to its highest level. And it’s in seeing those talents blossom that the game continues on as our national pastime. “Every generation’s had great players like that,” says White. “Baseball will always be bigger than every player. There’s always going to be players come along who are pretty amazing. I like looking for the next guy. That’s what keeps me going to the ballpark every day, looking for him.” And the packed toolbox he carries. Trout BRACE HEMMELGARN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT


2014 Minnesota Gameday HQ Round 2
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