For our 25th Anniversary issue, we opted to look forward, not backward, and spotlight 25 local talents age 25 and under, from homegrown hotshots to overachievers lured by our stellar schools and sports teams. Get to know them now; this won’t be the last you hear from them.
This was supposed to be David Ortiz’s season. And while the 40-year-old slugger has launched a farewell tour worthy of a legend, this Red Sox season has also turned into the Year of Youth. Joining Ortiz as starters on this year’s All-Star team were 20-somethings Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. Bogaerts, the 23-year-old shortstop and Aruba native, made his mark as a fresh-faced phenom during the team’s 2013 title run. He’s shown marked improvement each season since, blossoming this year as one of the best players in the American League. He’s part of a wave of young position-player talent that’s taken up residence at Fenway Park, the likes of which arguably haven’t been seen since the ’70s. “It’s a fun time for the organization. When I came up, I was one of the first young ones to come up, and Mookie and [others] followed,” Bogaerts says. The mix of speed and strength that those young players possess has been a major reason the Sox are leading the league in runs scored. Now Bogaerts is hoping that the young foundation’s regular-season statistical success will be followed by a postseason triumph. “We won my first year, and I was like, ‘Wow, is it this easy?’ Because I came up and won right away,” he says. “It’s been kind of hard after that. But you gotta perform year in and year out to be one of the top teams at the end. Second place, nobody remembers that.” The wiry infielder knows that winning won’t come easy, which is why he’s focused on improving his defense and staying physically fit during a season full of long road trips and day games after night games. It’s all part of his effort to avoid even one bad day on the field. “The expectations for the city and the team are so high here. It’s win-win-win-win mode every day. It doesn’t matter if you have an ace on the mound for the other team or if they’re on a 9-game losing streak. It’s fun when you come to the park every day, and you know you have that bit of pressure on yourself.” If all goes well, Ortiz will be passing the mantle to the young Sox this October. And perhaps Bogaerts & Co. will be handing him another World Series ring.