Young's star shines anew
Nats' first baseman returns to greatness despite diabetes
SAN FRANCISCO -- Eight months ago, Dmitri Young wasn't thinking about playing in the All-Star Game. The game, and baseball in general, were the furthest things from his mind. Young was just worrying about making it to the next day.Long shot doesn't even begin to cover Young's selection to the 2007 National League All-Star team. Last November, the Nationals first baseman was laying in a hospital bed thinking every second could be his last, after he was told he had Type 2 diabetes. "They didn't know which way I would go. ... I felt I could go at any second," Young said. "If they had got me in 30 minutes later, I would have been gone." Young, 33, was in the Intensive Care Unit for four days. When he left he could barely walk and baseball, much less the All-Star Game, seemed a long way away. "All I could do was try. I didn't look too far up the road," Young said. On All-Star Monday, Young sat before a crowd, describing how he went from the lowest point in his career to the highest in just a matter of months. The lowest came last October, soon after the team that had let him go, Detroit, was playing in the World Series. At the time, Young didn't know he had diabetes, he just knew he should have been out there. "But looking back, my bat would have been worthless. My mind wasn't there," Young said. Maybe, but the warning signs of diabetes were there. The day the Tigers released Young, he had fallen asleep on a clubhouse couch, something that was happening a lot as a symptom of diabetes. When the disease was finally diagnosed in November, it answered so many questions and Young could finally start to rebuild his career. "A lot of people would just bury themselves and quit, but I didn't quit. Good people don't quit. Champions don't quit," said Young, an All-Star with the Tigers in 2003. Young started to rebuild working out with Nationals Minor Leaguers in Spring Training, where he remembered his love of baseball when he saw the enthusiasm in the young players.
He made the Nationals' Opening Day roster and has been building ever since. Young is batting .339 this season, and in May, he recorded hits in every game he played except three.Young said he can't explain how he's doing so well so soon. He's stopped trying to be a home run hitter, as is evident with eight this season, because home run hitters make "angry outs." "My dad always said, 'You don't want your kids to think you're a quitter,' " Young said. "I didn't quit on myself and my kids didn't see their dad being a quitter." Young received the All-Star news when he was riding in a cab to the stadium in Pittsburgh. He got a call from Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, the very man who gave Young a chance after so many had written him off. As soon as he got the news, Young called his three kids. It brought tears to his eyes to hear them yelling and jumping around. "When I called my kids, that's when it started to hit me, because everything I've done has been for them," Young said. Whatever the reason he did it, Young earned his way to the All-Star Game in every sense of the word. "Where I was at this time last year compared with where I am now, a lot of people say this is storybook type," Young said. "But the story's not over yet." When it does end, Young is thinking Forrest Whitaker would make a great Dmitri Young.
Becky Regan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.