Gil LeBreton

May 17, 2014

For 13 years, Michael Young was Rangers’ rock

In this injury-plagued season, the Rangers take time to honor a guy who always played.

By proclamation, it was Michael Young Day in the city of Arlington on Saturday.

But to be honest, lots of days were Michael Young Days here over the past 14 baseball seasons.

Young spent parts of 13 of his 14 major league seasons with the Texas Rangers, and never once had to spend a day on the disabled list. When ceremony emcee Matt Hicks pointed that out Saturday, the home crowd gasped, as if in disbelief.

Yep. Every day was Michael Young Day.

There was irony, therefore, that the Rangers chose to honor their retired seven-time All-Star, the unofficial former face of the franchise and the team’s captain on the same day that they learned yet-another player is being benched with injury concerns.

There are 13 Rangers already on the disabled list this season. First baseman Prince Fielder, diagnosed with a herniated disk in his neck, may be days away from being the 14th.

“It stinks,” Young observed, when asked after his ceremony. “But the show must go on. This is the big leagues. Stuff happens.”

Young wasn’t being unsympathetic. Rather, his answer was indicative of the way he played — like the 2008 season when he played to the end, missing only two games, despite having two broken fingers.

The brief, classy ceremony Saturday was highlighted by a videotaped montage of tributes, from Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to Yankees rival Derek Jeter.

Mattingly, Young’s final manager last season, called him “a class act and a tremendous competitor.”

Former teammate Cliff Lee said, “You definitely played the game the right way.”

Mike Napoli, appearing on the video board in full-bearded array, mused, “What a great career ... you’re a true professional ... I learned a lot just from watching you.”

David Murphy, another former teammate, called Michael “the ultimate role model.”

Mark DeRosa, who played alongside Young for two seasons in Texas, told him, “You’re the most humble superstar I ever played with. You taught me how to be a better person, how to play with humility and how to compete every day.”

Jeter, adding an exclamation point to the tributes, said simply, “I’ve always admired you from afar.”

Young, always the professional, seemed genuinely touched by the video praise.

“It was incredibly well done,” he said later of the ceremony. “I’m not even sure I deserve it. It was definitely very humbling.”

Oh, he deserves it. Circumstances — baseball business — prevented Young from getting a proper goodbye. But there may not be a Rangers fan who doesn’t feel at peace that Michael and the Rangers’ front office have reconciled.

Indeed, the club wants Young to help in some capacity when he feels ready to do so.

No, not to play second base, though he looks like he still could handle it, even after formally retiring in February.

“I knew I’d miss it, whenever I stopped playing, whether it was going to happen when I was 37 years old or 41 or 42,” Young said. “But at the same time, there were a lot of things I was missing when I was playing.

“I was ready for the next step in my life. It’s as simple as that.”

Because they never really got to tell him goodbye the first time, the applause of the Rangers crowd Saturday seemed to linger ever more loudly and warmly.

Young thanked them, pointing out how special it was to have shared the time with them when the Rangers finally became a playoff team.

“Thank you,” he said, “for reminding me how good I had it for 13 years.”

And vice versa, Michael Young.

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