Dimitri Young is set to return to the Nats' lineup today in the team's exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers. Young has been out since March 1st with a back injury.
It is not expected that Young will begin the season with the team because, as Bill Ladson on Nationals.com writes, he is not in game shape as of yet. However, his is a bat that has the potential to make a big impact of the bench in an offense that was anemic in 2008. That is, if he can remain healthy. Young, after winning the starting first baseman job last year, only played in 50 games because of complications from his diabetes.
This setback came two years after Young battled issues with alcohol and substance abuse and depression following a divorce. He was also sentenced to a year's probation stemming from a domestic violence incident. Then, after this, came Young's discovery that he had diabetes.
Still, it is a testament to Young that he has fought through all of this and continued to play at a major league level. Much was made of Josh Hamilton's resurgence to prominence after his struggle with drug addiction and deservedly so, but Young also deserves his fair share of recognition for his achievements.
I once met Dimitri Young at a spring training game in Viera, Fla., and his attitude and demeanor to fans endeared him to me. As fans do when they seek autographs from players, we called out, "Mr. Young, Mr.Young" will you sign this, will you sign that. Many players sign autographs like zombies, but Dimitri Young was engaging with fans and responded to their requests by accepting and replying, "man, call me Dimitri."
Baseball players have said before that they hustle so that the kid who only sees them play once leaves impressed with their effort. Well, this was my only run-in with Dimitri Young, and I left impressed.
By most accounts, Young is one of baseball's good guys, but it remains to be seen if his play can be as big as his personality in 2009.