Forever Young

By Will Martin

One of the toughest aspects about being a fan of something is the knowledge that the moment you get too comfortable or too accustomed to familiarity a change comes in a swift and sad way. I mean, will anyone remember Emmitt Smith as a Cardinal? Joe Namath as a Ram? Michael Jordan as a Wizard? Johnny Unitas as a Charger? Babe Ruth as a Boston Brave? Of course not!

We identify with that which made them famous. Their original team and teammates. And so it goes with someone here in North Texas that no one seemed to want upon his arrival from Toronto in late 2000. A 13 year odyssey for a team captain who played second, shortstop, third, and first will now be a symbol for what was to become a resurgence in Texas Ranger pride. Michael Young is officially a Philadelphia Phillie. The Rangers will now get some young pitching arms (translation: Zack Greinke is a rich Dodger) and Ron Washington can designate a new team captain after eight years of ownership by Michael Young.

At first he was the unwanted player. Dissed and publicly spoken poorly about from Tom Hicks to John Hart. Never mind the fact that he had over 200 hits during the 2003-2007 seasons in Arlington. I’ll always respect the way he put the interests of the team first when volunteering to play shortstop in 2004 when Alfonso Soriano came through for a spell. Michael was even okay with playing third base when informed about the prowess of Elvis Andrus. Not to be outdone one had to wonder what the Ranger Captain was thinking in 2010-2011 when Adrian Beltre was signed to a long term deal. To many it seemed like once again the guy nobody wanted answered and silenced all of his critics with his bat and his glove.

For quite a while Michael Young was the toughest batter to retire with two strikes. Able to harness his swing to drive balls into right center. Sometimes for power but usually to advance a runner. This captain displayed a healthy set of stones when dealing with the ambivalence of the front office. Even now with the right to decline a trade with over ten years of Texas servitude. Baseball like all sports is a business.

Michael wants to play. Michael can do that in Philadelphia and will be welcomed by the Phillies faithful for his work ethic and his bat control at the plate. Lots of play at third base. Had Michael stayed in Arlington he would have been a utility player at best.

It is often stated that an established athlete wants to be able to go out on his own terms when he is ready. My guess is there is still a solid two to three years left in Michael Young. A chance at 2,500 career hits and the knowledge he will one day be in the Texas Ranger Hall Of Fame. Maybe Cooperstown.

Even with the aforementioned indifference shown to him upon his arrival, Rangers fans are about to see what happens when the heart and soul of your team is sent elsewhere for business purposes. You don’t replace a leader like that. You can only hope to find a new one to appeal to the team, the fans, and the fan base.

Michael Young was a throwback to a different time. Strong, stoic, and even consistent in good times and bad. He was the only person I felt for when the Rangers came up one strike away twice of a title in 2011. May he find that elusive gold in Pennsylvania.

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