Firn ’16: A young man’s game

Sports Columnist
Friday, October 23, 2015

When I was 10 years old, I found my life’s calling: I was going to grow up to become a professional baseball player, as I matter-of-factly stated in my fifth-grade yearbook. Every occupation other than shortstop for the Red Sox just seemed trivial. In my mind, I was the logical choice to succeed Nomar Garciaparra at Fenway Park — I wore number five in Little League, I fiddled endlessly with my batting gloves and I practiced taking grounders every day in the back yard. I just needed to wait patiently until I was a little older.

Now that I am a little older, the dream doesn’t feel so real. And with each passing Bryce Harper homer and on-campus interview, it fades even further. It’s a weird and disheartening milestone in the life of a sport fan when he grows older than the athletes he reveres. With that in mind, here’s a list of depressingly young phenoms in each sport to remind you that low league intramural flag football will probably constitute the peak of your athletic career.

Major League Baseball

Youngest active player: Roberto Osuna, age 20 (born Feb. 7, 1995)

Youngest stud: Bryce Harper, age 23 (born Oct. 16, 1992)

Osuna, a hard-throwing relief pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, stepped up as the Jays’ closer over the summer and helped propel the team to an American League Championship Series appearance. Meanwhile, his contemporaries at Brown frantically changed concentrations for the millionth time in advance of their junior years. Harper, on the other hand, seems likely to collect his first MVP trophy in his age-22 season. I still have a year to match him.

National Basketball Association

Youngest active player: Devin Booker, age 18 (born Oct. 30, 1996)

Youngest stud: Andrew Wiggins, age 20 (born Feb. 23, 1995)

Booker checks in as the youngest rookie on an NBA roster after being selected 13th overall by the Phoenix Suns in June’s NBA draft. Like Booker, Wiggins played just one year of college ball before bolting to the pros and running away with Rookie of the Year honors last season. At age 20, however, Wiggins remains legally unable to properly celebrate his achievement.

National Football League

Youngest active player: Danielle Hunter, age 20 (born Oct. 29, 1994)

Youngest stud: tie between Marcus Mariota, age 21 (born Oct. 30, 1993), and Todd Gurley, age 21 (born Aug. 3, 1994)

When Hunter was born, Adam Vinatieri — the league’s 42-year-old elder statesman — was kicking field goals for the Amsterdam Admirals in Europe’s now-defunct World League of American Football. Meanwhile, Mariota and Gurley both look every bit like future NFL stars just one year removed from college dorm life.

National Hockey League

Youngest active player: Daniel Sprong, age 18 (born Mar. 17, 1997)

Youngest stud: tie between Connor McDavid, age 18 (born Jan. 13, 1997), and Jack Eichel, age 18 (born Oct. 28, 1996)

1997! Sprong, McDavid and Eichel probably aren’t even done growing, yet they make a living absorbing brutal hits from some of the toughest men in professional sports. McDavid and Eichel, the first and second picks in the 2015 NHL draft, respectively, are particularly precocious on the ice. It remains to be seen, however, whether they can grow adequate playoff beards.

Professional Golf Association

Youngest active player: Cole Hammer, age 16 (born Aug. 28, 1999)

Youngest stud: Jordan Spieth, age 22 (born Jul. 27, 1993)

Though he doesn’t have his tour card, Cole Hammer was the youngest player to participate in a PGA event this past season when he teed it up with the big boys at the U.S. Open. Tiger Woods had already won two major championships before Hammer had even been born. Jordan Spieth, at the age of 22, has two major trophies of his own. Golf’s next “Great One” looks poised to lead the PGA’s youth movement for years to come.

Not all of these guys may be younger than you, but they do represent an inevitable inflection point in every sports fan’s life. You age, and they don’t. The athletes used to represent what you wanted to be. Now, they represent what you can’t be. It’s a little eerie.

Obviously, I’m being ridiculous. No18- to 22-year-old is past his or her prime. The world is wide open for everyone at Brown. But if consulting doesn’t work out and your contingency plan is still to play in the MLB, take some solace in the 1999 professional debut of 35-year-old rookie Jim Morris. The dream lives!

Mike Firn ’16 keeps getting older and they stay the same age … Yes they do, yes they do. Contact him at