Finding consistency in the game of baseball can often be a difficult task. Summer heat, grinding injuries, and the mental exhaustion of playing 162 games in six months are some of the main reasons why consistent production at any level of baseball is hard to come by.
Over the last decade, few players have been as consistent at the Major League level than Texas Rangers' third baseman Michael Young--our 2012 National Baseball Congress Graduate of the Year.
Through July 17th, Young has a career .302 average with 2,157 total hits, 1,046 runs scored, 172 home runs, and 952 RBI.
Since 2004, Young has made seven American League All-Star teams, and finished in the top-11 in the AL MVP voting three times.
The offensive production is impressive enough, but even more so when you consider that Young has spent virtually his entire career playing two of the hardest defensive positions on the diamond--shortstop and third base. Young owns a lofty .971 career fielding percentage at shortstop. His .956 mark at the hot corner is equally impressive.
Young was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth round out of the University of California-Santa Barbara in 1997. During his college years, Young played for the Alaska Goldpanners. Young hit .335 with five home runs and 33 RBI in 51 games played for the Goldpanners in 1996, and was named the team's Most Valuable Player.
Young's minor league career got off to a quick start when the right-handed hitting infielder batted .308 for the New York-Penn League's St. Catherines Stompers in the summer of 1997. By 2000, Young had reached Double-A Tennessee in the Blue Jays' organization, having hit at least .282 in each of his first three professional seasons. Late in 2000, Young was dealt to the Texas Rangers in exchange for veteran pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Loaiza had three productive seasons for the Jays and stayed in the Majors through the 2008 season, but Young's stellar career has made Texas the true winners of the deal.
Young earned his first cup of coffee late in 2000, and was a fixture in Texas by the middle of the following season. Young hit .262 with nine homers and 62 RBI in 2002--his first full season in the Big Leagues. The following season, the Covina, CA native slugged 33 doubles, 14 home runs, and hit .306 while collecting 72 RBI. It was the first of five consecutive seasons of hitting above .300, including a .331 mark in 2005 that captured the American League batting title.
During his 10 full years in the Majors, Young has had a batting average above .300 seven times, scored 88 or more runs seven times, had eight seasons of double digit home runs, and six seasons of 90 or more RBI.
Young has twice led the American League in total base hits, raking in 221 during his batting champion season of 2005, and pounding out another 213 just last year.
Perhaps the most honorable thing about Young's career is his selflessness. The 35-year-old has spent his entire Major League career--1,755 games worth through July 18th--with the same team. As rare as it is to find a player with that stretch of longevity, it is even rarer for such an established player to change positions. But Young did that in 2009 when Texas called up top prospect Elvis Andrus. Young had just won his first gold glove at shortstop in 2008, but the Rangers' front office felt an alignment of Andrus at short and Young at third gave the team an optimal chance to win. Young set an example to younger players by accepting the change, and the on-field success that followed was undeniable.
The position switch had little effect on Young's bat, who hit .322 with 22 homers in 2009. The following season, Young helped lead the Rangers to their first ever World Series appearance. It was Young's first postseason overall, and the Rangers' fan favorite collected four RBI during an ALCS victory over the defending champion New York Yankees.
Young helped the Rangers return to the World Series again last fall. And while Texas fell one game short of the ultimate prize, Young did everything he could to ensure the Rangers won the final game of the year. Young drove in 12 runs over 13 games between the ALCS against Detroit and the Fall Classic against St. Louis. Young had four doubles and five RBI in the World Series alone.
The Rangers are back in contention again this summer, and Young is once more right in the middle of their success. As the leader of one of baseball's most exciting team's in recent memory, there is a good chance Young and his teammates will be playing baseball in October for a third straight year.The 78th Annual National Baseball Congress World Series begins in Wichita, KS on Saturday, July 28th with a National Champion crowned on Saturday, August 11th. For more information visit our website and www.nbcbaseball.com or call the NBC Office at 316-264-OUTS (6887).