07/10/2007 12:00 PM ET
Young: From the back fields to All-Star
This is my second All-Star Game, but it's definitely the most special one for me because of everything I went through to come back and reestablish myself. To me, this is like a reward for working hard.
It was difficult both mentally and physically to get back to this point. Making the necessary adjustments to learn to live with diabetes was physically demanding and, mentally, I had to overcome a lot of self doubt. I was asking myself, do I really want to play anymore?
But after talking at length with my dad and my brother, Delmon, I came to the conclusion that now was not the time to quit.
They told me, you have plenty of game left in you. You have three kids who are old enough to learn from your example. If you quit, the kids will see you as a quitter. If you fight, they'll see you as a fighter. I took that advice to heart. I like to be a fighter.
I had to prove something to myself. When (general manager) Jim Bowden offered me the opportunity to go to Minor League camp, that was the only offer I had. So I worked from the bottom up, from Field 5 to becoming one of the leaders of our team. I got to the point again where my teammates and the people around me were depending on me. That's very gratifying.
It seems clear to me now that if you work hard, you stay on the right track, you pray and you do right by your family, good things will eventually come.
There was an emptiness in my life after getting released by Detroit last September, a whole lot of "What am I going to do with myself?" I felt I was too young to be out of the game and that I hadn't left on my terms.
Then I got hit with the diabetes in November, I was hospitalized for four days, including three in the intensive care unit. Going through that, then not getting any calls, not getting an invite to Spring Training -- that was the most difficult part. That's when I began to question myself. Did I really have it in me?
Then in February, Jim Bowden offered me that small opportunity to go to Minor League camp with the Nationals and I decided to run with it. He's a good people reader and he's known me a long time. He told me, "People make mistakes. I know you're a good person, but some things didn't go your way." He understands we're all human.
I decided to give it a shot. I felt that if I had it in me, I could still get back to this level. If not, at least I would be in a position to say that I'd tried.
When I was at Field 5, I came in every morning and did 45 minutes of cardio before the day's workout and another 45 minutes after the workout. I changed my diet, of course, and I also worked a lot with Lenny Harris, who's now our hitting coach. He was in my corner 100 percent when a lot of other people had one foot in and one foot out.
Lenny was reporting to Jim Bowden pretty regularly. After about five weeks down there in Florida, he went to Jim and told him, "Dmitri needs to be challenged now." That's when they brought me up to the Major League camp. I started to shine again.
Now I'm here at the All-Star Game, a long way from where I was at this time a year ago, and I'm representing a team of special young players like Ryan Zimmerman. I call him Future Greatness because he's going to be coming to these All-Star Games for a long time.
I've heard speculation about getting traded, but I'd really like to stay with the Washington Nationals now. I feel a lot of loyalty to the Nationals because they're the organization that took the chance on which Dmitri they were going to get.
But this story isn't finished yet, not by a long stretch. I consider coming to the All-Star Game to be a little bonus for the hard work I've put in to get back to this point, but there's plenty more to accomplish. I've still got a few good years in me.
Dmitri Young, an 11-year veteran representing the Washington Nationals at the All-Star Game, is batting .339 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs. The 33-year-old switch-hitting first baseman was the fourth overall selection in the 1991 First-Year Player Draft and is the older brother of Tampa Bay Devil Rays rookie star Delmon Young.