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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Young still hitting, sniping
By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 19, 2006
The Rays prospect returns from his suspension, saying he's sorry but acting irritable.
DURHAM, N.C. - Delmon Young returned from his 50-game suspension Monday saying he had changed, but it didn't necessarily seem that much was different.
He showed the same impressive ability that will likely get him to the major leagues soon, lining a single to center in his first at-bat in nearly two months, and some of the same churlish attitude, making another seemingly rehearsed apology while objecting to reporters getting too close and snapping at one.
"I made my mistake," Young said during an afternoon media session covered by newspapers from Tampa Bay, New York and Los Angeles. "We all learn from it. I'm just coming out here to play baseball and get back on track to where I want to get to."
Young, a Triple-A Durham outfielder considered the Devil Rays' top prospect, was suspended after throwing his bat at umpire Rick Cacciatore, a replacement for the striking minor-league umps, in an April 26 game in Pawtucket, R.I.
Young, 20, spent most of the past six weeks in the Tampa Bay area, working out in the extended spring training program while providing 50 hours of community service that was part of his punishment.
He worked with the Miracle League, the Rays' wheelchair softball team, a sheriff's youth ranch and the Ronald McDonald House, and he got good reviews. "He did precisely what he was supposed to do and more," Miracle League director Eddie Lee said. "I couldn't be happier with his attitude."
He also lost about $145,000 in pay and made what he said was a "donation" and Cacciatore described as a "settlement" to youth baseball programs in Cacciatore's Massachusetts hometown.
Young said the entire punitive process was a learning experience.
"Yeah, it changed me," Young said. "I'm just out to make sure I make the right judgments. We're all role models for everybody, and I've got to do the best I can to keep a positive image. I messed up, so I've got to now try to regain all that; just come out here, keep my nose clean, go out there and just play baseball and play hard."
There has been some question how much the extended absence would effect Young's game, as well as an expected promotion to the major leagues later this season, though Durham manager John Tamargo said it shouldn't because Young is "almost ready to hit in big leagues right now."
Young seemed to answer that quickly, lining the first pitch he saw to centerfield for a single in the completion of an April 22 rain-interrupted game, a 2-1 Durham win.
"I could wake up out of my sleep and get a base hit," Young said. "I didn't care how I did as long as we got the victory."
He then went 1-for-4 in Monday's scheduled game against Charlotte, batting to requested music off T.I.'s King CD (What You Know and Top Back ), grounding out to second in the first, singling in the tying run in the third, striking out swinging in the fifth and lining out to third in the seventh inning of the 4-2 win.
The best part?
"Just competing," he said. "If I had to come in and pitch two innings, I would have done it. Just to come out and compete against guys that are this far advanced. ... It was just fun to go out and compete again."
Young said his focus is on the field as he hopes to get back on track for his much-anticipated promotion. (He has to be in the majors in 2007 because he will be out of options.)
"It's in his hands," Rays director of minor-league operations Mitch Lukevics said.
Young said it would be easier for him to deal with the media now because "you guys already got the worst on me," though it didn't show Monday. Three times he complained that reporters were too close or touching him, and when one asked about the makeup of a support group he mentioned, he replied curtly: "My own support group that I need to know and not you."
He also said he expected some abuse from the fans, though there wasn't much reaction from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park crowd when he was introduced (and there were cheers for his run-scoring single).
And he said he wasn't concerned that umpires would hold his actions against him by creating a wider strike zone, nor would he be timid about disputing future calls as that is "all part of baseball."
He acknowledged the incident may follow him around for what is expected to be a long, successful career, but he did not seem overly concerned.
"Yeah, but what can you do about it?" Young said. "You've just got to go on and just live your life. I want to come out here and play baseball and have fun and try to move on with it. You can judge me how you want to judge me, but I'm going to come out here and live my own life."