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Chris Young ’02 as a Tiger.

Photo by Beverly Schaefer

July 17 , 2002:

Two-sport Tiger mowing ’em down on the farm
Chris Young ’02’s star continues to rise in professional baseball’s minor leagues

Few Minor League baseball players had to field questions from the national media a few weeks ago when the National Basketball Association was holding its annual draft.

But Chris Young ’02 is not your average Minor Leaguer. In the two years he spent playing for the Tigers, the 6’-10" righthander was as well known for his dominance on Ivy League basketball courts as he was for his presence on the pitching mound. The 1999 Ivy Rookie of the Year in basketball was projected as a possible first-round NBA pick before deciding to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who drafted him in the third round of their draft in 2000, leading to sadness for many Tiger fans.

For Young, currently 10-4 with the Hickory Crawdads of the South Atlantic League, the decision seems to be working out just fine. He graduated on time with his class in June, and then a few weeks later pitched his way onto the SAL All-Star team. Young’s 9-3 record, along with his 2.34 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 77 innings, helped the Crawdads win their division in the first half of the season, which assures the team a postseason berth.

"I have no regrets. Things have worked out perfect. I couldn’t have scripted a better plot," says Young, who had to forfeit his final two years of college eligibility at Princeton when he signed with the Pirates for a reported $1.65 million due to Ivy League rules.
Young’s story is far from over, though, if you ask his Princeton baseball coach and former Major Leaguer Scott Bradley. While Young is currently traveling on buses to and from towns such as Kannapolis, North Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina, at the Class A level (AAA is the top Minor League classification), Bradley foresees Young rising through the ranks and into the "big show" at the Major League level.

"Chris is going to be a good Major League pitcher," says Bradley, who spent nine years in the Major League as a catcher. "He’s as focused and disciplined a young man as anyone we’ve ever seen around here. He’s one of those guys you point in the right direction and show him the finish line and he’ll figure out what he has to do to get there."

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ front office is extremely pleased with Young’s development thus far, including a 90-93 mph fastball he is gaining more command of and an improving curve ball.

"He’s made great strides this year, mostly because he was able to attend spring training from start to finish," says Brian Graham, the Pirates’ director of player development. "He’s definitely one of our top pitching prospects. He’s 6’10", he’s got a good athletic body, and a tremendous make-up — very competitive, a great work ethic. Everybody likes him and gets along with him. He’s a model player."

Graham says he would like to see Young spend the entire season with Hickory so he can focus on continuing to develop his curve ball and his arm strength. Young had his pitching elbow scoped earlier this year to remove a bone spur and rehabbed it at Princeton, where he stayed until spring training began in April.

The politics major was able to complete his senior year, which included two classes and his senior thesis, via e-mail. His thesis was on the impact that Jackie Robinson’s integration of professional baseball in 1947 had on racial attitudes and stereotypes within the media, particularly the New York Times.

Young’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Patrick ’02, did the leg work in Princeton, getting his thesis bound and delivered to his adviser, as the pitcher started his first full season in the pros. "She was the savior in all this," he says.

But Young’s Ivy League degree has not led to any ribbing from teammates, many of whom also went to college, including his roommates who attended Notre Dame and Arizona State.

He’s been pleased with his performance in the minors thus far, but has had to adjust to the long bus trips, which he says are the worst part of the experience, and playing everyday.

"There’s no off days. You play everyday. In the college baseball season, the most you’ll play is 50-60 games. Here you play 60 games in two months," says Young. "It’s also a business, and your sole job is to go out there and perform. At times, it’s a lot of pressure. But that’s what you play for."

His teammates have come to expect solid performances from Young, the ace of the Hickory staff.

"We have a lot of confidence in him," says Hickory third basemen Jose Bautista, who was also an All-Star. "He knows what he’s doing out there, and he’s not someone you think is going to slip. It makes you work to make sure you don’t slip either or commit an error when he’s out there."

Bautista says that although Young is a bonus baby thanks to his $1.65 million signing, he gets along with all his teammates. He also said the pitcher is able to communicate with his Latin American teammates, who call Young "El Hombre Grande" – the big man.

But the righthanders other nickname might give a little peak into Young’s future – C.Y., as in Cy Young, the name for the awards that go to the best pitchers in the major leagues.


By Argelio Dumenigo

Write to Argelio at dumenigo@princeton.edu