NEW YORK - Once, back in 2010, Domonic Brown was Baseball America's top minor league prospect, one place ahead of some South Jersey 18-year-old named Mike Trout.
Trout, of course, sprinted his way through the minors and into the major leagues and wowed the baseball world with a record-making rookie year in 2012 - which included a hit, a walk and a stolen base in last summer's All-Star Game in Kansas City.
At the time Brown was scuffling in the Phillies' minor league system, the holes in his swing scrutinized as if a crime scene, the premise of an All-Star appearance 12 months later ridiculous to even the most zealous Phillies fan.
And any comparison with Trout a taunt more than a tout.
"Everyone has his own journey for sure," said Brown, who at age 25 has finally put together the season expected of him several seasons - and some trying journeys - ago.
Trout led off the American League's 3-0 victory last night with an opposite-field double. He has reached base in three of his five All-Star plate appearances. Brown? Not so good. Facing Blue Jays lefthander Brett Cecil in his only at-bat in the seventh inning, he struck out on three pitches.
Still, any comparison with his younger yang is a taunt no more.
"I just wanted one pitch to hit but he was spotting it perfect." said Brown who was on-deck when the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez popped out to end the game. "I guess I'll have to settle for next year. Just keep working hard like I've been so I can get back here."
Brown was one of 39 first-time All-Stars at Citi Field last night. Add in Trout, and this would seem to suggest a surge of baseball talent among those with birth years around 1990, and common experience too. The actuality, though, is that the ages of those 39 newcomers are spread over two decades of baseball, their experiences representing not uniformity, but rather a dizzying disparity of journeys to last night's game.
Once the fourth pick overall of baseball's amateur draft, Pirates closer Jason Grilli is a first-time All-Star at age 36. Released, waived or demoted by a slew of teams (including the Phillies) over a pro career that began in 1997, injured a few times and booed a lot more, he embodies baseball's age-old axioms involving mental toughness.
To a lesser extent so does 37-year-old first-timer Marco Scutaro, and Kansas City's Alex Gordon, an All-Star for the first time at 29 years old. A day short of his 29th birthday, St. Louis first baseman Allen Craig appeared in his first All-Star Game last night. Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter was a first-time All-Star at age 27.
At age 25, Brown is more the norm in that respect than is Trout - already with two All-Star appearances before his 22nd birthday. Trout's father, a former minor league player, taught his son how to play the game and about the game within the game.
"Even when I got drafted, telling me what to expect," Trout said. "It's definitely big. It gives you a little step ahead of everybody. Off-the-field stuff is just as important as on-the-field stuff. If you're not comfortable, or in a weird spot off the field, it's tough to go out there and perform when you're thinking about stuff all the time."
He wasn't speaking of Brown when he said that. But he could have been. Brown did not have much of a relationship with his father until his mid-teens. He has conceded now that he allowed early professional failures to affect him mentally. "It was tough being sent down to the minor leagues," he said last night. "But I had a lot of help too. If I didn't have a great background and good teammates and stuff I don't know if I would have made it."
"This game can humble you," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "This game is all about confidence. And the minute you think, 'Gosh, I don't know if I can play here?' You can't. It's about coming here every day and knowing, 'I'm going to have bad days. This game is going to humble me from time to time. But I'm going to get through it.' "
For one amazing May and glorious half-season, Brown has pushed through. Despite his quick whiff, this week's festivities and the fraternity it implies should exorcise any of the self-doubt Collins alluded to, self-doubt that has erased the talents of plenty of players with the hype and hope that have followed Brown and Trout since they were baseball's two highest-touted prospects just a few years ago.
"It takes some guys longer than other guys," Brown said. "You definitely have to go through your own journey and see how it works out. But the biggest thing is never giving up. You just keep working on what you have to do, keep working hard and everything maybe works out."
On Twitter: @samdonnellon