Young to compete for spot with Nats
First baseman battled through many personal problems in '06
VIERA, Fla. -- When Nationals general manager Jim Bowden contacted first baseman Dmitri Young almost two weeks go, Bowden started the conversation by asking, "Do you need a tow?"
They both laughed.
The story goes that in 2001, Bowden and Young met at a restaurant in Cincinnati. Young parked his truck in a handicapped space. After the two finished eating, Bowden and Young noticed that Young's truck was towed because it was parked illegally. Bowden drove Young to the impound lot to retrieve the vehicle.
"Needless to say, when I came out [of the restaurant], the [truck] wasn't there, so Jim took me over to get my truck, so that's how that conversation started," Young said.
Almost six years later, Bowden is giving Young a helping hand once again. Last Wednesday, the Nationals invited Young to Spring Training. Young, 33, will begin by working out with the rookies in the team's accelerated program.
The team invited Young as insurance in case Larry Broadway and Travis Lee have problems replacing Nick Johnson, who is recovering from a broken leg and will not be ready for the exhibition season and Opening Day.
Talks between Young's agent, Adam Katz, and the Nationals started a month ago. The team was going back and forth about giving Young a job. By Tuesday, Bowden decided to give Young an opportunity after receiving the go-ahead from team president Stan Kasten.
Young had his best seasons under Bowden from 1998 to 2001, when Bowden was the GM of the Reds and Young was the team's regular outfielder.
Young, wearing a Sanford and Son T-shirt, reported to the Carl Barger complex on Sunday morning and was seen in its parking lot talking to Stanley King, Cristian Guzman's agent, on Monday. Young will begin workouts on Tuesday.
"It's just one day at a time," Young said. "I will come here and show them that I still have it, because that's what it's all about. They are trying to put together a team to go out there and compete this year and they want their best men. They want me to come here and do what they ask, and show them that I can still play again. We'll see."
Last season was Young's worst. He played with the Tigers, but was given his unconditional release on Sept. 6, because of lack of performance. He was hitting .250 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs in 48 games at the time of his departure. Young missed more than two months of the season because of a right quadriceps injury and personal matters.
Young pleaded no contest to a domestic violence charge stemming from an April incident at a suburban Detroit hotel with a then-girlfriend. Upon his return, Young confirmed that he spent 30 days at a rehabilitation facility to undergo treatment for alcoholism and depression. After his release from the Tigers, Young was sentenced to a year's probation for assaulting the girlfriend.
"My life was spiraling down and I had the incident that went on, and going through a divorce at the same time and I was hurt on the field," Young said. "Usually my life's been an even keel, but there was a definite bump in the road. It was a little hard for me to handle at the time. I [went to treatment] myself. This wasn't from the team or anybody, this was on my own merits. I checked myself in. I got to know about myself in there, too. They had some good shrinks in there."
Young now says that his problems on and off the field were caused by Type 2 diabetes, which was diagnosed in November. In fact, he spent four days in the Cleveland Clinic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that month. Three of those days, he said, were spent in the intensive care unit. His blood sugar level was at 893. The doctors told Young he should have been dead.
Young said before the diagnosis, he would have mood swings, vision problems, had problems losing weight and was constantly going to the bathroom.
"I was actually relieved [about the diagnosis] because it answered pretty much every question that I had -- my mood swings, the inability to lose weight," Young said. "I don't have the spots anymore, but I had a lot of spots from the diabetes."
When told of Young's problems, Tigers left fielder Craig Monroe was relieved to know that Young figured out what was wrong in 2006.
"I'm just glad he found out and now he can do what he has to do to get everything under control," Monroe said. "I'm just happy for him. He's getting a chance."
Young, however, believes the Tigers should not have given him his unconditional release last September. He said he was solid citizen prior to 2006 and that the Tigers should have stood by him. But even if the Tigers kept him, Young most likely would not have been involved in the postseason because a Michigan court told him to stay in Detroit for 30 days and take a breathalyzer test. He called that situation the lowest point in his life.
"I must say [the Tigers] were probably saving their own tail because they thought that the whole court thing there was going to be a distraction for a team that was winning," Young said. "I thought it was [wrong] on their part, especially the time that I spent with the Tigers and represented them in a positive manner. I would have figured they would support me in the same manner but they didn't.
"If I was in California or Florida, it wouldn't have been so bad. It would have been like, 'Aw, it [stinks],' but I wish the guys well. But being in Detroit -- not good."
Young thought about retiring and traveling around in his camper to watch his three children grow up and watch his brother, Delmon, play the outfield for the Devil Rays. But after having the conversation with Bowden, he decided to play another year.
"Jim is a familiar face, a guy who gave me my first real chance in the big leagues after I got traded over to the Reds from St. Louis," Young said. "The relationship that we had over there in Cincinnati was a mature relationship -- a lot of respect. Because of that, I knew I had a chance over here, so I took Jim at his word."
Bowden warned Young that the team will have a no-tolerance policy if Young has problems off the field again.
"Dmitri Young has been through an awful lot, personally, over the last several years," Bowden said last week. "He has been extremely apologetic for the mistakes he has made in his life. He has asked for a second chance in life. He comes in knowing the organization has zero tolerance. Any incident whatsoever that may take place, if it does happen, he'll be released at that time. He understands that. Dmitri is a very good kid."
Said Young about no-tolerence policy, "I agree with it. That was part of the deal. Like I said, diabetes can do anything, messing with my health and that aspect."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. Jason Beck contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.