Two years ago, pitcher Chris Young ’02’s baseball future was in doubt. He had missed parts of three seasons because of injuries and did not throw a single pitch in the major leagues in 2013. But after undergoing surgery to repair a nerve problem in his shoulder, the veteran right-hander returned to top form. Last month, as a key contributor for the Kansas City Royals, Young reached the pinnacle of his sport, becoming the first Princeton alumnus to win a World Series title.
“It’s made the hard times worthwhile,” Young told PAW. “Certainly, I didn’t go through the rehab, the surgeries, and the tough times just to make it back and be average. I wanted to be part of something special.”
Young won 11 games in the regular season and posted a 2.87 earned run average in 15 2/3 postseason innings. He was the winning pitcher in Kansas City’s dramatic 14-inning victory in the World Series opener. Realizing his childhood dream of pitching in the series was “everything I expected it to be, and more,” Young said.
For Princetonians in the major leagues, this fall was one to remember. Pitcher Ross Ohlendorf ’05 and outfielder Will Venable ’05 each played in the American League playoffs with the Texas Rangers, and three alumni landed prominent front-office jobs: Mike Hazen ’98, general manager of the Boston Red Sox; Mike Chernoff ’03, general manager of the Cleveland Indians; and Mark Shapiro ’89, who left the Indians to become president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Young’s performances topped Princeton’s postseason headlines — and thrilled coach Scott Bradley, who watched from the grandstands and marveled at his former pupil’s uncanny calm. Bradley said that Young’s shoulder injuries have made him a more complete pitcher: He developed better breaking pitches and refined his already-meticulous game-planning. Now, with his arm back at full strength, Young can mix a 90-mph fastball into his repertoire of sliders and change-ups.
Though Young’s season ended in triumph, it also included deep sadness: His father, Charles, died of cancer in late September. Young said that having his mother, sisters, and wife and children with him throughout the postseason enabled him to celebrate his dad while mourning the loss. Two teammates also lost parents during the season, so being in the clubhouse provided additional support. “We just all felt a bond together,” Young said. “We were helping our families heal, and then baseball was healing us.”