From an early age, Chris Young ’02 has seen success upon success in his athletic career, both as a college basketball standout and as a pitching star for Princeton and in the MLB. However, few moments in his career can trump the achievement he earnedSundaynight: the title of World Champion.
After over a decade of experience in MLB baseball, Young was a star for the Kansas City Royals not once but twice en route to their 4-1 series victory over the Mets. Beyond the obvious thrill that comes from winning the World Series, the victory is especially sweet for Young given the questions of age and health surrounding him. Young had to spend nearly the entire 2010 season off the mound due to shoulder injury and, at the age of 36, was the second-oldest player on the Royals’ roster heading into the World Series.
In addition, with his nagging shoulder injuries, some reports had indicated that his fastball hadn’t reached up to 90 miles per hour in multiple seasons — a major red flag.
None of that seemed, to matter, however, when Young entered Game 1 of the World Series in the 12thinning. Young opened up by throwing for 3 straight strikeouts and would go on to hold the Mets to 0 runs in the final two innings as well, as the Royals earned a 5-4 victory in the series opener.
Young did not respond to requests for comment.
Young’s performance was the talk of MLB pundits for many hours after. To Princeton head baseball coach Scott Bradley, who both recruited Young from high school and coached him throughout his career at Princeton, seeing Young come through with the game on the line was familiar.
“From the minute he came into Princeton, being a two-sport star, and the way he figured basketball out — he just has this very unique ability to figure things out on the fly.” Bradley said. “You’d watch him in basketball games as a freshman in the Princeton system and the way we play basketball, how he just quickly picked everything up, the composure and the focus and the toughness all rolled into one goes way beyond the obviously very good ability. But those other intangibles were very evident if you had a chance to watch him participate [in Princeton sports].”
Indeed, Bradley could immediately point to the moment he saw Young’s potential for greatness: during a Texas statewide high school playoff game, well before Young donned the Orange and Black. Just as in his World Series debut, Young came up with huge strikeouts to keep his team in the hunt for the championship.
“When we were recruiting him, I went out to watch him … Such a big game, I think Chris threw three shutout innings,” Bradley remarked. “They had to sit for about two hours [due to rain]; Chris had had his jacket on and was just walking around … I happened to bump into him, and he said ‘There’s no way I’m coming out of this game, I don’t care how long I have to wait.’ When the game started [up again] … There were a couple of errors, and suddenly the tying run was on third base or something like that. And he just kind of stepped to the back of the mound and readjusted his hat, kind of took this one deep breath, and struck the next three guys out on, like, 9 pitches.”
“At that point I kind of just said … ‘This kid’s got something special.’ ” Bradley said
After he shut down the Mets at the end of Game 1, Young returned to the mound in Game 4 as the Royals’ starter. He pitched for four innings and struck out three of New York’s players as the Royals earned a crucial 5-3 victory that put them up 3-1 in the series.
Getting the chance to watch his star pupil at Citi Field, Bradley noted how much respect Chris had earned among the Royals staff and, beyond just his recent performance, how critical he’d been to bringing them here.
“[With my] being in New York all weekend, there were many coaches on the Royals staff that I know and that I’ve been around from my career, and they just went out of their way to come over to me and tell me what an amazing young man Chris is,what a competitor he is, what an important factor he was on this team all year [and that the] personality of the team could really be traced back to having Chris around,” Bradley said.
Bradley, himself having had an eight-year career in the MLB, seemed especially proud how far Chris had surpassed himself in terms of accolades earned in the league.
“I almost thought I was part of the whole experience. It was nerve-wracking, it was exciting, it was amazing, to watch them celebrate on the field, and to see Chris, and to realize how difficult championships are,” Bradley said. “I had a decent major league career and I never saw the postseason. And here Chris is being able to win a world championship.”
“He’s just a really special person,” Bradley said. “They just don’t make them like Chris.”