Monday, July 6, 2015

Change for the better

At the time I'm writing this (Sunday evening, listening to an old Jean Shepherd radio show) Delmon Damarcus Young, former Baltimore Oriole, is sitting somewhere waiting to be told which team has traded which player in return for the right to employ Young as a pinch hitter, designated hitter, and outfielder.

Old #27
Young came to the Orioles last year, and helped lead them to the American League East championship (you can still hear the din down at the ballpark from when he doubled in the 8th inning of game 2 of the 2014 American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers, a hit that put the Orioles ahead for good in the game.)

This year, the club has more talented outfielders than they have seats on the bench, so Delmon has been "designated for assignment," which means he's off the team while the front office negotiates possible deals with other teams. It's for sure that he will bring the Orioles something good in return, and find a club where he can play every day.

But there were incidents in Delmon Young's past that no one mentioned while he played here, and for good reason. He was a prime example of a man who made mistakes as a younger man, and redeemed himself by changing his ways.

A Californian, Young was the #1 pick in the amateur baseball draft when he finished high school in 2003. By 2006, he had advanced through the minor league rungs in the Tampa Bay Rays organization to the Durham Bulls, where he reacted to a called third strike by throwing his bat at the umpire, for which he was suspended 50 games. He had been suspended for three games the year before for bumping an umpire, while a member of the Montgomery Biscuits.

You have to love the names of minor league ballclubs. The Modesto Nuts! The Akron Rubber Ducks! The Biloxi Shuckers! And by the way, since you asked, the team colors of the Montgomery Biscuits are "butter and blue."

Anyhow, Young made the big league team later in '06, and stayed in Tampa Bay for two years, and then wound up with the Minnesota Twins, and then the Detroit Tigers, and then the Philadelphia Phillies. The Tigers cut him loose after he got drunk one night in New York and hollered an anti-Semitic slur (it was not a pretty incident), and then he wound up back in the minors, and with the Philadelphia Phillies for a while, and finally the Orioles gave him the chance to resurrect his career, which he certainly did.

But Young did the right thing. He got counseling for his alcohol and anger management issues, and he met with a rabbi in Detroit to deal with his anti-Semitism. He was puzzled by that aspect of his life, saying that he grew up in a diverse area where everyone was accepted and there were no problems of that sort.  Between the rabbi and the counselors, his career (with its considerable earning power) was restored. He was by all measures a well-adjusted part of the team here with the Orioles, and takes our best wishes with him to whichever new team he suits up for.

It's a reminder that even those of us with issues that manifest themselves in many ways can always get help, and get life back on an even keel.

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