Delmon Young is finally playing up to his vast potential.
Young was selected MVP of the AL championship series Thursday after batting .353 with two homers and six RBIs for the Detroit Tigers in a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees.
The designated hitter capped his latest clutch performance with a run-scoring single in the first inning to get the Tigers off to a good start en route to an 8-1 rout in Game 4 that put them in the World Series.
”He got hot again this year at the right time for us,” manager Jim Leyland said. ”He stepped it up under the big lights. Not that they are not bright all year, but they are a little brighter this time of year. He stepped it up two consecutive years for us. And the MVP, what a tremendous honor for him.”
Earlier this year, Young found mostly trouble.
Back in April, he was charged with a hate crime and suspended by Major League Baseball. His older brother, two-time All-Star Dmitri Young, said that was a turning point in Delmon’s life.
”It forced him to focus on being the player that was the No. 1 pick overall,” Dmitri Young said from California in a telephone interview Thursday night with The Associated Press. ”He’s gotten a chance to show people who the true Delmon Young is, and not the guy who did what he did on that one night.”
Delmon Young, the top pick in the 2003 amateur draft by Tampa Bay, was arrested nearly six months ago in New York on a hate-crime harassment charge. He was accused of yelling anti-Jewish epithets at a group of tourists, tussling with them and tackling one to the ground while the Tigers were in town to play the Yankees.
Young was suspended for seven days without pay by the commissioner’s office. He appeared briefly in a Manhattan court in August for an update on the misdemeanor case and his lawyer said Young was trying to work out a deal with prosecutors.
Young has said he regrets what happened. His lawyer, Daniel J. Ollen, has said the player reacted to something that was said to him. Young is free on $5,000 bond and due back in court Nov. 7, after the World Series.
It wasn’t the first time he’s been in trouble. In the minors, Young was suspended for 50 games in 2006 for infamously whipping his bat and hitting an umpire after the then-20-year-old player struck out looking.
But over the past two years, he’s been an October nemesis for the Yankees, hitting five playoff home runs against them as Detroit eliminated New York both times. Young’s seven career postseason homers – all since 2011 – set a Tigers record, and he’s second in franchise history with 14 postseason RBIs.
”They’ve got some great pitchers over there and I was able to find some holes,” he said.
Young, who batted.267 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs this year, became the first player with four game-winning RBIs in one postseason series, according to STATS LLC.
Just don’t expect much of an answer if you ask him to explain his postseason success.
”I have no clue,” he said. ”I need to figure it out for the season, too.”
Playing in the postseason for the fourth straight year, the 27-year-old Young drove in as many runs as the Yankees scored in the entire ALCS.
Now, he’s headed to his first World Series.
”That was thanks to our starting pitchers,” Young said. ”They carried us the whole playoffs so far, making it easy on the offense by putting up zeros on the board.”
Young’s bat is crucial to the Tigers because he hits right behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, providing protection for both star sluggers.
Big league success runs in the family, too.
Dmitri Young was a .292 career hitter who played in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit and Washington from 1996-2008. The former slugger, who is 12 years older than Delmon, had a great view of his kid brother’s home run during a 2-1 victory in Game 3. Watching Delmon play in Detroit for the first time, Dmitri was in the 25th row behind home plate. He captured video of the solo shot, starting with the crack of the bat.
”I put my phone up and bam!” the elder Young said with an ear-to-ear grin. ”I’m real proud of him.”
The next game, Dmitri watched his younger brother play on TV.
”He stepped up and helped the team do what they were supposed to do, doing what he does best in big-time, big-light situations,” Dmitri Young told the AP. ”Most people were writing him off during the year, but he proved people wrong – again.”
The elder Young was the 2007 NL comeback player of the year after bouncing back from personal, professional, legal and substance-abuse problems to hit a career-best .320 and become an All-Star for the second time.
Dmitri Young said he stopped drinking alcohol on June 21, 2011, and has lost 80 pounds. After watching his brother play in the World Series, he will focus on the California Big League Academy Da Meathook Switch Hitting University in in Camarillo, Calif.
”I’m healthy and that’s the most important thing to me,” he said.