PITTSBURGH (AP) -Six months ago, Dmitri Young didn't have a job in baseball and was weighing retirement. Next week, the first baseman will be the Washington Nationals' lone representative in the All-Star game in San Francisco.
Young, enjoying an exceptional comeback season on a young and not-very-good team, couldn't hide his excitement Sunday upon learning he's going to his second All-Star game - even if it seemed for weeks his selection was certain. Every team must have a player in the game, and Young is Washington's one standout player.
``It would be painful to think where we'd be without him,'' manager Manny Acta said Sunday, when Young had two hits in a 3-2 victory at Pittsburgh.
Making the All-Star game provides some consolation for Young, who missed out on the World Series last season with Detroit because of personal problems. The first baseman hit .250 with seven home runs in 48 games, but was let go late in the season at manager Jim Leyland's request.
Young's troubles last season included an assault charge, treatment for alcoholism and depression and a divorce. He also was hospitalized for diabetes. Leyland didn't feel he was ready to contribute to the team during the pennant race, and Young had self-doubts.
``I didn't know if I still had it,'' said Young, a 2003 All-Star with Detroit.
If Young didn't have enough problems he created, his younger brother, Delmon, was suspended 50 games for throwing a bat toward an umpire during a minor league game last season. Delmon returned to make his major league debut with Tampa Bay later in the season.
Delmon Young kept pushing Dmitri to not retire, even when his big brother - a .292 career hitter - went most of the winter without a contract offer. Finally, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, who was with Dmitri in Cincinnati, gave him a minor league deal.
``If Jim didn't call, I wouldn't be playing,'' said Young, one of the NL's top hitters with a .340 average, seven homers and 37 RBIs. ``No one else called. I've known Jim for a long time, and I've known many a player he gave a second chance to. He gave me an opportunity and I've taken full advantage.''
When the Nationals opened spring training, the 33-year-old Young worked on an auxiliary field away from the major league team. The Nationals felt he could hit, but were uncertain how ready he was following his troubled 2006 season.
``This guy was on Field 5 in spring training, working in the accelerated camp with our prospects and ends up being our first baseman and look what he's done for us,'' Acta said. ``Hit? That's all he's done all his life. What he's turned out to be is a terrific human being and a leader, a good guy in the clubhouse.''
Being around so many younger players helped Young regain his concentration and enjoyment for the game.
``This is a great feeling, coming full circle,'' he said. ``Let this be a lesson to people who deal with adversity. You never quit and keep fighting and keep working day by day, and you can realize dreams.''
The first to congratulate Young on Sunday was Delmon Young, who pushed his brother to not give up.
``He was like, `Just think, you didn't want to play this year,''' Dmitri Young said. ``He was the one who told me to go out there and see if you still have it, you have an opportunity to go play and see what you got. So he gave me an `I told you so' today.''
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