Rangers pay tribute to former great Michael Young

"I feel like my time here is linked with you guys, and I'll always be thankful." - Michael Young

LM Otero/AP

ARLINGTON, Texas – Even in a pregame ceremony to honor him, former Rangers great Michael Young couldn’t make it all about himself.

After being honored by assorted dignitaries and former teammates, Young took a lap around the field in a convertible with two of his young sons.

"That was pretty cool," Young said afterwards. "Obviously I had my family here, it means everything to me. Being able to ride around with my boys at the end was a lot of fun."

Although his career was marked by numerous individual honors, including seven All-Star Games, a Gold Glove and a batting title, Young was known as the ultimate team player.

Young’s devotion to his teammates was evident when he spoke about Rangers manager Ron Washington during his speech to the crowd at Globe Life Park.

"I want to thank him for demanding that I make other people better," Young said. "It wasn’t enough to just show up every day."

Young did just that for 13 full seasons in the major leagues. He made his big league debut when he played in two games for the Rangers at the end of the 2000 season. Then came 12 consecutive seasons as a Rangers mainstay.

Young is the Rangers’ all-time leader in hits, runs, doubles, triples and total bases. He was named Rangers Player of the Year five times, tying him with Juan Gonzalez for the most in club history.

Young retired in January after spending last season with the Phillies and Dodgers.

In his speech, Young thanked everyone from former teammates and coaches to the clubhouse staff.

He also thanked his family and especially the Rangers’ fans who endured some lean years as well as the most successful seasons in franchise history.

"One thing that I take from my time is that we did this together," Young said. "I feel like my time here is linked with you guys, and I’ll always be thankful."

Saturday’s ceremony was before the Rangers played the Toronto Blue Jays, the team that drafted Young in 1997 before trading him to Texas in 2000.

Young became best friends with Blue Jays star Vernon Wells while they were minor leaguers together and Wells was among the special guests to pay tribute to Young.

"Michael’s one of those rare athletes that can be one of the best at what he does," Wells said, "and be one of the best people."

Wells’ father, Vernon Wells Jr., is a noted sports artist and the Rangers presented Young and his wife, Cristina Barbosa, with a portrait of his three sons, Mateo, Emilio and Antonio painted by Wells.

Washington along with current Rangers players Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre presented the Young family with a trip to Disney World.

The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation made a $10,000 contribution to The Michael Young Family Foundation.

Young was also presented the 2013 Bart Giamatti Award, which recognizes generosity in giving back to the community.

Video tributes were made by Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, Cliff Lee, Mike Napoli, Mark Teixeira, Mark DeRosa, David Murphy and Mike Modano.

Celebrities in attendance included Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Witten. Young attended Modano’s retirement ceremony with the Dallas Stars in March.

Young said there’s a special bond between longtime Dallas-Fort Worth athletes such as himself, Nowitzki and Modano.

"I don’t think you see that in many other towns. We all know each other, we all keep in touch, we all pull for each other," Young said. "We’ve spent a massive chunk of our careers playing in the same town for the same fans, so it’s pretty special."

Young also spent a massive part of his career helping others, including learning new positions to make room for the new additions to the club. He played shortstop, second base, third base and first base while with the Rangers.

He envisions himself eventually getting back into baseball, although he’s not sure in what role.

"It won’t be anything this year, that’s a guarantee. That’s a lock," Young said. "This is the first summer I’ve ever had off. I’m enjoying it."

However, Young’s desire to help others won’t keep him out of the game for long.

"I like to think that I have something to offer," Young said. "I have a lot of knowledge that I’d like to pass down to young kids. The idea of working with young kids in the minor leagues and boosting them to big league careers is something that appeals to me."

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire