I bet he out hits the old men that the Reds are going to run out there at 1st.
'I've had my whirlwinds before'; Young gets Nationals 1B job
By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Sports Writer
March 25, 2007
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- Two months ago, Dmitri Young was out of a job, pondering retirement.
A week ago, he was stuck in Washington's minor league camp, trying to prove his personal demons are in the past and that he can still swing a mean bat.
On Sunday, Young found out he'll be the Nationals' starting first baseman come opening day, because his chief remaining competition, Travis Lee, asked to be released.
So already, 2007 is looking much better than 2006 for Young, a former All-Star who was as low as low can be not all that long ago.
In the span of one calendar year, he faced an assault charge, treatment for alcoholism and depression, a divorce and hospitalization for diabetes. And then there was the matter of getting cut by the Detroit Tigers with less than a month left in the regular season.
"I was at the bottom of the mountain, the bottom of Mount Everest, and I climbed my way up, one day at a time, knowing that I had to work," Young said in the visitors' clubhouse before Washington's 6-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
"It wasn't going to be given to me by any stretch and I had to work. I worked every day in the minor league side: do my cardio every day out there, take extra groundballs, take extra swings. I did everything it would take to earn it."
It helped that he knew Nationals general manager Jim Bowden from their days with the Cincinnati Reds. So Young signed a non-guaranteed, minor league deal in February -- and there truly were no guarantees as he began the process of trying to earn another shot at the majors at age 33.
He was, after all, no better than third in line to replace Nick Johnson, the incumbent first baseman who's expected to miss at least the first two months of the season while recovering from a broken leg.
And Young wasn't even in the Nationals' main camp. Instead, he was surrounded by kids a dozen or so years younger, kids who might never make the majors, much less produce the .289 career average with 154 homers and 599 RBIs that Young compiled with the Cardinals, Reds and Tigers.
The doubts did creep in.
"I was like, 'What am I doing out here?' I was like, 'I don't even know if I have it,"' Young said.
Over at the big league camp, Larry Broadway, a perennial prospect, and Lee, a veteran trying to re-establish himself, were given first crack at filling in for Johnson. But Broadway produced only one extra-base hit in 21 at-bats before being optioned to Triple-A on March 18 -- the day Young's exile with the minor leaguers ended.
And now, just like that, Young gets to take advantage of Lee's decision.
Does it all feel like a bit of a whirlwind?
"I've had my whirlwinds before," Young said with a hearty laugh. "This is not a whirlwind. This is just, take it one step at a time -- getting back to playing professional baseball at the big league level."
Bowden is hoping for big things. Asked if Young exceeded his expectations, Bowden said: "My expectations for Dmitri was that he would, No. 1, clean up his life, and No. 2, he would hit .300 with 20 homers, 80 RBIs, 40 doubles and win Comeback Player of the Year. As of now, he's not exceeded that, but I think he's on a path to possibly do that."
There will bumps along the way, to be sure, such as the error Young was charged with when he dropped a throw in the second inning Sunday, leading to an unearned run.
He also went 0-for-3, dropping his spring average to .286.
When he signed with Washington, Young was told that he'd be operating under a "zero tolerance" policy. And, even now, with a job that's his, it's clear that not all is forgotten when it comes to his troubles.
"We haven't had any significant baseball games played yet. This is still spring training. When the season starts, and guys get under contract, sometimes things might get out of whack a little bit," manager Manny Acta said.
"He knows he's made mistakes, and he's willing to move forward, and he's willing to put that behind him. He's not only representing himself. He's representing his family ... and the Nationals organization, including Jim, who was willing to give him a second chance."