|AP Photos FLSR112-117|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 29 February 2008 20:52|
The Old Delmon was stubborn. He criticized the front office, clashed with his manager, and once drew a suspension for throwing a bat at an umpire.
The Old Delmon wanted success, and he wanted it NOW. The Old Delmon did things HIS way, whether you liked it or not.
``I think that stubbornness within him limited his ability in the past,'' Young said. ``Where now, he's wide open for everything being said to him. But in the past, he was so opinionated, maybe he didn't hear things.''
By November, the Tampa Bay Rays decided to part ways with the Old Delmon. They traded the outfielder to the Minnesota Twins in a six-player deal.
Even before the big trade, Young started recognizing a change in his son.
``He has matured by five years since he got home in October,'' he said. ``He came home and had some maturity. We call him the New Delmon, my wife and I.''
The New Delmon is more open to suggestions and advice. The New Delmon just wants to fit in, do things the right way and pile up the victories.
``The New Delmon listens,'' the father said. ``Before he would just act on something without thinking. Now, he listens and makes sure he understands.''
The Twins need Larry Young to be right.
After losing Torii Hunter, the Twins need the New Delmon.
Young takes part of the blame for the Old Delmon.
A Navy pilot in the Vietnam War, he didn't know much about baseball when his oldest son, Dmitri, started showing an interest in the game.
Unable to afford high-priced baseball camps, Young immersed himself in books, videos, anything that he could get his hands on that would help him teach his son about the game.
Then he put his Navy background to work, instituting a strict practice regimen to mold Dmitri, who is 12 years older than Delmon, into a prized prospect.
Little Delmon started hitting rocks with a stick at 2 1/2 years old. Of course he looked up to his big brother, wanted to be just like him.
When Delmon was 12, his father told him he had a choice to make.
``He said, 'Would you rather be hanging out with your friends right now, and when you're 25 be working a 9-to-5?''' Delmon remembered. ``'Or would you rather sacrifice a little time with your friends to practice baseball and, when you're 25, play a game for a living and get to do whatever you want from October to February?'''
So Delmon enrolled in what the brothers called ``Camp Larry.'' The way Delmon describes it, the drill sergeant in ``Full Metal Jacket'' has nothing on his father.
``He took the military-type thing for Dmitri and me,'' Delmon said. ``Practice every day, whether you're sick, hurt, it doesn't matter. Find a way to practice.''
No one can argue with the results. Dmitri and Delmon were the first brothers to be chosen in the top five of the baseball draft.
Dmitri was the fourth overall draft pick by St. Louis in 1991 and was an All-Star last year for Washington.
Delmon was the No. 1 overall pick by Tampa in 2003. At 6-foot-3 and more than 200 pounds, he has incredible bat speed and one of the strongest arms in the game.
But their father occasionally wonders if the relentless program wore on his sons.
``Sometimes I kind of blame myself,'' Larry Young said. ``When it comes to training, I was pretty rough, like a drill instructor. That's the way I trained in the military. I took that same approach to them, and maybe there was a little rebelling about Camp Larry.''
April 26, 2006, will always haunt Delmon Young. He was hitting .338 for Triple-A Durham and eager to make it to the big leagues.
Playing Pawtucket, Young was rung up on a called third strike, and the 20-year-old snapped. He whipped his bat and accidentally hit the umpire in the arm, a reaction that was played endlessly on the nightly sportscasts.
Young was suspended for 50 games and branded as a problem child.
His father may blame himself, but Dmitri Young has a simpler explanation. His younger brother was, well, young.
``People kind of forget that he was 20 years old when that happened. It's not like he was 27 or 28 and knew what he was doing,'' he said. ``As a young guy, you make mistakes. A lot of guys that are 20, they're in college and they make their mistakes (that don't get noticed).
``Him, it just got national exposure beyond belief and people are voicing their opinions, but little do they think, 'Hey, this is a 20-year-old kid.'''
After serving his sentence, Delmon Young was called up and homered in his third career plate appearance.
``I did my time and everything,'' he said. ``I wish it never happened. But you can't go back and hit rewind. You just turn all the negatives into positives so you can grow.''
When Michael Cuddyer first heard that Delmon Young was coming to Minnesota, the Twins right fielder was curious to see how he would fit in.
``The knock on him was that he was a guy who was not going to listen,'' Cuddyer said. ``He does his own thing, he does his own dance. I haven't seen that all.''
Cuddyer has taken Young under his wing in spring training, spending extra time to show him how the Twins do things, making sure he feels included in the group and gets off on the right foot.
So far, his job has been pretty easy. Young has embraced his new team and been awed by a sense of history that the expansion Rays just didn't have.
He has marveled at the presence of former Twins greats Rod Carew, Paul Molitor and Tony Oliva, and even looked a little starry-eyed when talking about former MVP Justin Morneau and former batting champ Joe Mauer.
``It's a real treat. It's like going to a baseball camp, almost,'' Young said.
The good vibes don't surprise Dmitri Young, who long admired the Twins organization while playing with AL Central-rival Detroit.
``Having a place with some structure, knowing his place, and knowing that he can become the superstar he always was able to, instead of having a place like where he was at,'' the older brother said. ``Where they always lingered on what he did in the past, instead of looking to the future.''
The Twins seem to have embraced Delmon Young right back. After losing Hunter in free agency, the Twins desperately need him to replace some of the pop in the middle of the lineup.
They also pride themselves on clubhouse cohesion, which led to a few raised eyebrows when Young was first acquired.
Center fielder Denard Span admitted that part of him was waiting to see the bad guy he'd heard so much about.
``You've heard his past and all that, and I just haven't seen it,'' Span said. ``He seems like a good guy. That's all I can go by right now.''
The baseball part has always come easy for Delmon Young.
Since 2000, only Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols had more hits in their rookie season than Young's 186 last year. He homered in his first minor league game, his first Double-A game and his first game in the majors, and the Twins have already been impressed by Young's workout habits.
But general manager Bill Smith was most pleased by how Young handled criticism from former teammate Carl Crawford early in camp.
Twice this spring Crawford told reporters in Tampa that things would be much smoother this season since troublemakers Young and Elijah Dukes had moved on.
Young deftly brushed aside questions asking for reaction, only saying ``I'm not really too much worried about that.''
He has also shown a bright, inquisitive and polite personality, and can often be seen laughing and joking with teammates.
``He's grown up in the last couple of years,'' Smith said. ``Anyone that has children understands that you throw an 18-year-old into a high-profile situation and they're probably going to make some mistakes. And he's the first one to acknowledge that.''
No one is saying the New Delmon is perfect. He is still just 22, but Larry Young says it seems like his son is starting to get it.
``I saw the light bulb come on,'' he said with a chuckle. ``And I tied the switch to make sure it stays on.''
The Old Delmon stood out for all the wrong reasons.
The New Delmon, Larry Young says, ``doesn't want to stick out in Minnesota unless he's sticking out on top.''
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich in Viera, Fla., contributed to this story.