It was a Friday night in Florida and 20-year-old Mike Stanton had been in the major leagues for less than two weeks.
Still looking for his first home run, he pulled his uniform pants up high and socked a grand slam against Tampa Bay that drew a curtain call from Marlins fans.
Pretty special moment for any young player, but Stanton was far from the only rookie making a big splash.
Over in Houston, former Stratford High School and South Carolina Gamecocks star Justin Smoak homered and drove in four runs to lead first-place Texas past the Astros. Up in Pittsburgh, Carlos Santana reached base four times and hit an RBI double to help Cleveland snap a four-game skid.
And, oh yeah, in the nation's capital, some pitcher named Stephen Strasburg set a strikeout record before another sellout crowd that included President Barack Obama.
All on one night that belonged to baseball's new kiddie corps. And there are plenty more to come.
"There is a lot of young talent coming into the league," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said.
Stanton, Smoak and Santana are just three fresh-faced examples in the string of hotshot prospects who have been called up from the minors recently.
At the plate, there's Giants bopper Buster Posey, White Sox infielder Dayan Viciedo and Mets first baseman Ike Davis. On the mound, Cincinnati's Mike Leake, St. Louis lefty Jaime Garcia and Rangers closer Neftali Feliz are enjoying astounding success.
Add them to Strasburg and 20-year-old Braves slugger Jason Heyward, the two phenoms who have generated the biggest buzz all season, and it's easy to see that baseball's baby boom has produced a bumper crop of rookies.
"Each club knew when the time was right. When they came they were going to be impact players," Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. "That's not always the case with young players. That's why this is a rare, quality group."
The next big thing in baseball? There's a bunch of 'em out there right now.
This year's summer blockbuster is the rookie revolution -- coming to a ballpark near you.
"You can see the fearlessness in the young players," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "Jason Heyward, we struck him out five times one day. He didn't come back not swinging the next day. You can see the confidence in these young guys."
Some of them aren't even old enough to drink, such as 20-year-old Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. But that doesn't mean they can't play.
Heyward has a .383 on-base percentage with 11 homers and 44 RBIs. Detroit outfielder Austin Jackson (23) is batting .308 and making highlight-reel catches in center. Leake (22) went straight from Arizona State to the majors and won his first five decisions.
Exhibit A is the 21-year-old Strasburg, who used his 100 mph fastball -- and nasty off-speed pitches -- to strike out an unprecedented 32 batters through his first three starts.
He headlines a deep rookie class that certainly stacks up with those of 2006 (Hanley Ramirez, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Ryan Zimmerman, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Johnson, Andre Ethier, Francisco Liriano, Dan Uggla, Matt Cain, Jered Weaver, Ian Kinsler) and 2001 (Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, CC Sabathia, Roy Oswalt, Jimmy Rollins, Alfonso Soriano, Adam Dunn, David Eckstein).
"The thing I see is the colleges have really stepped up in getting you ready," Torre said. "It's nothing to bring a pitcher up from Double-A ball. This has been an amazing year for young pitchers."
Why the sudden influx of twenty-something talent?
For one thing, cost-conscious teams often wait until around June to bring up premier prospects because that delays their eligibility for salary arbitration and free agency.
Also, struggling squads like the Pirates, Astros and Orioles have committed to youth movements after falling far behind in the standings.
"Colleges are getting better at developing talent just as we are at the minor league level and that just raises the level of competition," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "Talent moves quickly and organizations are more open than they used to be to develop players at the major league level. Many years ago, you wanted players to be as finished of a product as they could be before they got to the majors. Due to costs, many more young players are getting a chance to play in part because they balance salaries."
Indeed, many of these newcomers sailed through the minors with minimal seasoning.
For example, with Houston set to call up catcher Jason Castro on Tuesday, six of the top 11 picks from the June 2008 draft will be in the majors. Plus, three of last year's first 10 selections have already reached the big leagues, led of course by Strasburg.
Several other prospects, such as Cincinnati pitcher Aroldis Chapman and Toronto slugger Brett Wallace, aren't far behind.
So while the Major League Baseball draft may never offer as many immediate rewards as its NFL and NBA counterparts, gone are the days when it took half a decade or more for most high picks to pay dividends on the diamond.
"Players are just better than they used to be," Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson said. "I think high school ball and travel ball and stuff like that, kids have more opportunities at a younger age. They're almost playing professional schedules at 10. They're playing a lot of baseball. They have a chance to get a lot better at a younger age. The overall package is better: mechanics are stronger, a better idea of the game, the patience at the plate is a lot better, too."
And that means they're not intimidated when they make it to The Show.
"They're just more experienced. They know the game a lot better and they're not overwhelmed by the bright lights," Braves closer Billy Wagner said. "When I came up it was, 'Wow! I'm facing Barry Bonds!' Now it's, 'Billy Wagner? I'm not worried about him.' "
Starved for offense, the San Francisco Giants wanted Posey's big bat in their lineup so badly they brought him up May 29 to play first base -- even though he's a catcher.
The fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft out of Florida State, Posey went 6 for 9 with four RBIs in his first two games and soon took off on a 10-game hitting streak. The Giants still consider him their catcher of the future, probably starting next season after Bengie Molina's contract expires.
"It's all about where you come from and what path you took to develop. How seriously you took it coming up," Heyward said. "I learned at a very young age, nine or 10, as far as the cutoff man or taking a lead. I was fortunate to have that early start."
In the prove-it-to-me game of baseball, veterans often are skeptical of the hyped-up prospects who pass through the clubhouse every year. But this season, even perennial All-Stars are impressed with the rookie class of 2010.
"You can see guys with more refined skills," Atlanta slugger Chipper Jones said. "The guys that throw 95, 96 (mph), those guys are a dime a dozen but their skills are not refined. Hitters up here can time a jet plane. But you've got to be able to locate, you've got to be able to change speeds, you've got to be able to make the fastball four-seam, two-seam, all that kind of stuff.
"You're seeing guys, especially coming out of the college level, that are already refined," he added. "They're sinking it, they're cutting it, curveballs, changeup. They're ready."
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley, AP Sports Writer Larry Lage and AP freelance writers Amy Jinkner-Lloyd and Ken Powtak contributed to this report.