Young Says Goodbye at the Right Time
Michael Young called it quits today and he did it for the right reason. Sure, he’s 37 years old and on the downside of his career, he’s gone from the Rangers to the Phillies to the Dodgers in the past year, a pretty good sign that your days are winding down. But he didn’t announce his retirement from baseball because he couldn’t play any more. He surely could have hooked on with a team for this season–the Brewers were interested in him for a fairly substantial role, but that’s not what he wanted.
What Young wanted wasn’t to be an every day ball player, he wanted to be an every day dad. Young has three sons, Mateo (8), Emilio (4) and Antonio (1). At 37 Young has made a fortune playing baseball and won’t have to be a 9-5 dad working at a car dealership. He has all the time in the world to watch his kids grow and play a pivotal role in their development. He realizes that’s the greatest position he’ll ever play. So few athletes get that opportunity. To succeed at the level of a professional athlete, especially an exceptional one like Young, selfishness is almost as essential a skill as hand-eye coordination, speed and strength. Athletes are told their entire lives that it’s all about them. Focus on themselves and develop your skills and you might make it to the big time. If you do, the money flows and everyone around picks up the slack. That often includes the wives who have to be there every day while dad travels and plays and phones late at night from the West Coast.
At 37, in good shape and playing the game of baseball, especially in the American League, Young could have easily milked another 3 or 4 seasons. He could have added to his impressive career statistics. Since he became a starter with the Rangers back in 2001, only Ichiro Suzuki had more hits in the majors. He officially retires as a Texas Ranger, and while he will be in the team’s Hall of Fame he most likely won’t make the Cooperstown version, but you get the distinct feeling that matters little to Young. He is the Rangers all-time leader in several offensive categories; games played (1,823) hits (2,230), doubles (415), triples (55) and runs (1,084). He’s third in rbi’s and fifth in homers.
Young was also the leader in the Rangers clubhouse, no small feat on a team that’s featured some major talent–and egos. You couldn’t tell the difference after a game if Young had just struck out 4 times or went 4 for 4 with 5 rbi’s. He was as solid as a piece of iron. You could tell the other players respected the hell out of Young. I’ve been in the clubhouse numerous times during Young’s 13 seasons and there was an unmistakable aura around him. Even when he was in his late 20’s or early 30’s, he commanded respect. Not like Will Clark used to try, by being an ass and intimidating people, but by being real and accountable. It doesn’t seem difficult to do, but in the world of baseball and professional sports, it’s rare.
Further proof that Young was different–he said it was a privilege to play baseball for a living and to play 12 years for the Rangers. He got it. And he gets that being a great father trumps being a great ball player. He also retires with a lifetime batting average right at the magic .300…talented and smart.