Young gets nod as D-backs' All-Star
Turnaround earns outfielder first trip to Midsummer Classic
PHOENIX -- In July 2009, Chris Young was nearing the low point of his Major League career.
One year later, the D-backs' outfielder is an All-Star.
Young was selected as a reserve by manager Charlie Manuel on the National League team on Sunday and will be the D-backs' lone representative at the 81st Major League All-Star Game on July 13 in Anaheim.
"It's crazy how things can change if you believe in yourself and you want things to change," Young said. "I went into the offseason determined to come back here a different player than I was in 2009."
Fans, having already decided the starters and this week the final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m. MST. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Last season, Young was hitting .196 at the All-Star break, a far cry from what was expected of a player who signed a five-year, $28 million contract extension in 2008. The struggles wore Young down mentally, and the D-backs finally demoted him to Triple-A Reno in early August.
"I am very, very proud because I've known him for a long time and went through that struggle with him last year through a lot of telephone conversations," said D-backs bench coach Bo Porter, who was with the Marlins last year, but kept in touch with Young. "Just to see him persevere. He's being rewarded now for decisions that he made to get back to the player we all know he is capable of being. It's a huge accomplishment and I think it just speaks volumes as to what this guy is made of."
It was in Reno that Young began having fun playing again, and when he was recalled three weeks later, he showed tremendous improvement hitting .278 with eight homers and 14 RBIs
Eager to keep that momentum going, Young barely took any time off once the season ended and almost immediately embarked on an intense conditioning program.
In addition to a hitting coach, Young also worked with a strength coach and a track coach to improve his running.
"I saw how hard he worked in the offseason to get where he is now," teammate and good friend Justin Upton said. "He's had a great season and for him to play as well as he has it allows others to feed off him and the energy he brings every day."
The extra work has paid off for Young, who has been one of Arizona's steadiest hitters this season and has already surpassed his stolen-base total from last season.
"It's great," D-backs interim manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's been very consistent. His numbers are outstanding and given what happened to him last year, for him to be determined to turn this around, it shows great character and that's a great message for our team. This is what we're looking for."
As the numbers began to add up for Young, he began to hear his name mentioned in conjunction with the All-Star Game, but he tried to tune that out.
"I knew there was a chance, but that was just people telling me there was a chance," he said. "It didn't mean that it was actually going to happen, so I tried to not think about it too much."
Young was still somewhat asleep in bed when Gibson phoned him Sunday morning with the news.
"It was a good wake-up call, so I don't think he'll need any coffee today," Gibson said. "He's worked hard and he'll represent us well."
Young tried to convince Gibson that he was already up and on his way to the ballpark, but his groggy state gave him away.
The Houston native credited his family and close friends with getting him through the struggles of 2009, and he planned on making sure they are with him in Anaheim. He also plans on getting some autographs from his fellow All-Stars.
"It's a goal every year, it's just normally it doesn't work out," Young said of being selected. "Any time you can say you're an All-Star is special for me. Just with the players that I'm going to be playing against and playing with, just to be able to pick their brains. There are going to be some great players there and I'm really looking forward to it. It's a huge blessing. I'm going to stay humble about it and I'm just going to enjoy it. I feel like a rookie all over again, but it's going to be really cool."
After what he went through last season, though, Young will not stop pushing this year.
"By no means is me making the All-Star team the goal or the end of the season," he said. "I still have to continue to work hard and make the adjustments that I need to make for the season. But for the halfway part, I couldn't ask for anything more."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.