Personal struggles helped Young grow
Outfielder re-energized after working hard in offseason
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The week before he was set to leave for Spring Training last year, Delmon Young was forced to deal with unimaginable news. His mother, Bonnie, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.It was not something that Young shared with his teammates right away. The then 23-year-old outfielder kept the turmoil in his personal life to himself, trying to use baseball as an escape. But the toll of his mother's illness certainly had an impact on him every day that he was away from his family during the baseball season. "If I had a bad day and I'd call home and she wasn't feeling well and I wasn't playing, it was just, 'Ugh. I have to come here and watch nine innings,'" Young said. "Then if she was feeling bad and I felt I wasn't playing good, it was like, 'Let's just try to win this game.' And even if I was feeling good, it was just 'Let's win this game so I could get home to call her.'" Those phone calls would come to an end on May 18 when Bonnie Young lost her three-month battle with cancer and passed away at the age of 53. Young and his three siblings were by their mother's side at their home Camarillo, Calif., when she passed. For Young, the past year was a tough one mentally and emotionally, but it made him grow up quite a bit. And as he arrived at Spring Training this year, he did so re-energized with a slimmer physique and having gained perspective from the events that have transpired in his life. "This offseason, I had the chance to be home and grieve," Young said. "During the season, I didn't have a chance to be home and to deal with that. But my teammates were great, and I had a good support system here."
2010 Spring Training - Major League Baseball
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The No. 1 overall pick by Tampa Bay in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, Young has dealt with some ups and downs since arriving in Minnesota two years ago in a trade that sent right-hander Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett to the Rays. At the time, Young was the runner-up in the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year Award voting and as a result, high expectations were placed upon him. Since the trade, however, Young hasn't produced at the level many believe he is capable of reaching.He got off to a rough start last season while his mom was ill, and he was sharing playing time with fellow outfielder Carlos Gomez. Young hit just .239 with one homer in his first 32 games, and batted .266 with three homers over 192 at-bats in the first half. Still, he finished the season hitting .284 with 12 home runs and 60 RBIs in 108 games, thanks in large part to a strong finish in September. Following the November trade that sent Gomez to Milwaukee for shortstop J.J. Hardy, Young -- who turned 24 on Sept. 14 -- was assured of being the Twins everyday left fielder for the 2010 season. But he didn't spend the offseason being complacent, instead choosing to shed 30 pounds in an effort to regain certain aspects of his game. And it's a good thing he did, because on Feb. 5 the Twins signed slugger Jim Thome, who could take at-bats from Young as a DH, with Jason Kubel moving to left field. Left field is Young's job to lose, but he's going to have to hang onto it, and he seems prepared to do just that. "Where some guys see that trade and they go, 'OK I can relax,'" Justin Morneau said. "It's made him work even harder to give them the confidence to put him out there every day. He feels he's got something to prove. He's very motivated, and that's good." At his heaviest, which he said was early in September of last year, Young weighed 239 pounds. He dropped a few of those pounds while playing every day over the final month of the season, but his significant weight loss didn't come until the winter. Young arrived at Spring Training weighing 207 pounds, prompting manager Ron Gardenhire to joke with the outfielder, asking if he'd gone into a "a shrinking machine." "This is where I was when I was with Tampa," Young said. "I was smaller, especially in '05 and '06. In '07, I tried to bulk up a little bit and got to 215. But when I came to play on the turf in Minnesota, there was a little more of the nagging stuff. It bothered me to where I cut back lifting and my activities dropped. At the same time, I had the same calorie intake and that's where the weight gain started." By shedding the weight, Young felt that he could get back one aspect of his game that has been lost in recent seasons -- speed. Young stole a total of 56 bases while playing in Tampa Bay's Minor League system between the 2005 and '06 seasons. He had 10 steals during his rookie season in '07 and 14 in his first season in Minnesota, before the number dropped to just two last year. "We talked about him not running the bases as well last year," Gardenhire said. "He was a little bigger. He knew it, too. It's something that he set his own mind out to do, to go lose some weight and get back to running the bases better." "He's joked with me that he thinks he can now beat me in a race," speedy center fielder Denard Span said.
|"Where some guys see that trade and they go, 'OK I can relax.' It's made him work even harder to give them the confidence to put him out there every day. He feels he's got something to prove. He's very motivated, and that's good."|
|-- Justin Morneau|
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.