Playing on a team that boasts more stars than an Academy Award-winning film, Detroit Tigers designated hitter Delmon Young has often been content to play a supporting role.
But with Detroit in the World Series for the first time in six years, Young is once again commanding centre stage with the clutch hitting that earned him American League Championship Series (ALCS) most valuable player honours as the Tigers swept past the New York Yankees into the Fall Classic.
With a franchise record seven career home runs and 14 runs batted in (RBI) over two postseasons with Detroit, Young has become Mr. October for the Tigers.
Right on cue, Young grabbed the spotlight against New York, batting .353 with two homers and six RBIs to steal the thunder from his more illustrious team mates, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and prize off-season signing Prince Fielder.
“He got hot again this year at the right time for us and he stepped it up under the big lights,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters. “Not that they are not bright all year but they are a little brighter this time of year.”
Cabrera, the first player in 45 years to claim the Triple Crown by leading the AL in home runs (44), RBI (139) and batting average (.330), and Fielder, with 30 homers and 108 runs batted in, dominated during the regular season but have been slow to find their groove in the playoffs.
Young’s 18 homers and 74 RBI may pale alongside Cabrera and Fielder but his value at the plate is underlined by Leyland’s decision to play his designated hitter in left field at National League ballparks simply because his bat is too hot to leave on the bench.
“As a child growing up, your dream’s always winning the [decisive] Game Seven in the World Series, walk-off hit,” said Young. “So it’s fun knowing you get to go there.
Young’s dream is coming closer reality, although it will be against either the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants when the Fall Classic begins on Wednesday.
A World Series ring would offer a bright finish to a season that got off to an ugly start for the 27-year-old outfielder, who was suspended for seven days by Major League Baseball after his arrest in New York City in April for allegedly yelling anti-Semitic remarks during a scuffle with tourists.
Young was charged with a hate crime and later apologised for the incident, which is scheduled to go to court in November.
“Delmon kind of beats to his own drum,” explained Leyland. “We have a very good relationship but I kind of stay out of his way because he knows much more about hitting than I do and he knows what pitchers are trying to do to him.
“He knows guys that he can hit and he knows guys he can’t hit and he’s up front about it. He has a real good plan about how to go about it.”