Twins Win Battle of Young Brothers
Friday, June 20, 2008
MINNEAPOLIS, June 19 -- In the latest blowout game of the latest lopsided three-game series, the last remaining lines of neutrality led to a father sitting in Metrodome section 125, row 26, seat 20.
Larry Young had come to the ballpark for this game, a 9-3 Minnesota victory over Washington on Thursday, by himself. He had chosen this seat because of its middle ground -- directly behind home plate, equidistant from his two sons, 34-year-old Dmitri, playing for the Nationals, and 22-year-old Delmon, playing for the Twins.
Until this series, a Twins sweep, Delmon and Dmitri had never played against one another. Their age gap prohibited it. Their age gap meant that when Dmitri broke into the big leagues, Delmon tagged along, working as the unofficial bat boy. It meant that when Dmitri battled through alcohol difficulties -- even when he contemplated retirement -- Delmon was still in the minor leagues.
"I am toward the end of my career," Dmitri said, plainly. "His is just beginning."
Because of this meeting's unlikelihood, Larry Young, 56, refused to miss a minute of it. Sure, the entire Young family had come into town for the week -- you had Larry's four kids, his five grandkids, a few friends -- but nobody else watched all 27 innings of baseball. A few missed the middle game of this series to go to the Mall of America. A few more missed Thursday's game for an early trip to the airport.
Larry? He took his seat, one row behind Joe Mauer's grandparents, and leaned forward. His stoic demeanor failed to mask the undercurrent of intensity. He cheered neither side. Dmitri's eighth-inning home run, too late to mean much for Washington, couldn't offset the sting of Delmon's 0 for 4. After each of Delmon's first two at-bats, failures with runners in scoring position, Larry pulled up a video feed on his cellphone to watch his youngest son's outs again. He scanned for errors, for poor decisions, knowing that Delmon would call that night asking for advice.
"Dmitri is more calm," Larry said. "Delmon, I'd like to see him settle down, take Dmitri's approach."
For all the Young brothers' pronounced differences -- Dmitri is chubby and gregarious; Delmon is chiseled and introverted -- their track to the big leagues shares a starting point. Larry, a former Navy fighter pilot who now flies for Delta Air Lines, never tolerated pursuit without perfection, so when Dmitri, at age 7, demanded to play T-ball, Larry didn't just sign him up. He sought advice from local college coaches, bought hitting books and studied Ted Williams. He learned baseball, so he could teach his two sons.
"Anything you do, there are fundamentals," Larry said. "Why not learn the right way if you're going to learn anything? Learn it the right way, and you don't have to change anything."
What happened next unfolded like a vision: By 10, Dmitri was taking 200 swings every night in the batting cages. By 14, college scouts knew his name. Just before finishing high school at Rio Mesa (Calif.) in 1991, he signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, who had drafted him fourth overall. His signing bonus: $385,000.
That same week, Dmitri set a goal. He wanted to play in the big leagues long enough to oppose his young brother.
At that time, Delmon was 5.