Rangers pay tribute to club's all-time hits leader Young
Infielder gets video messages from Jeter, Teixeira, Modano and others
ARLINGTON -- Six signs, each of them identical, adorned the grass on the infield in Globe Life Park Saturday just behind the pitcher's mound.
As fans trickled into Globe Life Park, and family, friends and teammates each made their way to four rows of white lawn chairs in front of the mound, 12 stadium workers held up the six white signs.
"Thank you Michael Young," each of them read.
Saturday before the first pitch of the Rangers and Blue Jays game, the Rangers honored infielder Michael Young, who retired as a Ranger on January 31 after 13 seasons of play with the team. Young is the club's leader in hits, doubles, triples and total bases. His seven seasons batting .300 are good for a Rangers record.
As Young entered the stadium on the back of a red convertible and made his way to his seat next to his wife and three children, the crowd began to roar and the video board lit up with highlights.
The music played, and clip by clip, Young's career over the course of 13 seasons with the Rangers began to unravel.
First there were the hits -- the first ever, the 1000th and the 2000th. He was the fastest Ranger to reach the second milestone, and the first to reach the third.
Then there were the defensive plays he made as the first player in 100 years to play 400 games at second base, shortstop, and third base.
Finally, there were the faces of Mark DeRosa, Derek Jeter, Cliff Lee, Don Mattingly, Mike Modano, Mike Napoli and Mark Teixeira, who each recorded a personalized message for the seven-time All-Star who spent time with Toronto, Texas, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
"I know you don't realize the impact you had on a lot of guys' careers -- especially mine," DeRosa said.
"Your ability to hit with two strikes kind of helped me catapult my career."
Modano praised Young for his loyalty.
"What you've meant to this city and these fans is second to none," Modano said.
Young accepted the 2014 Major League Baseball Assistance Team's Bart Giamatti Award for his service off the field, was given a four-day trip to Disney World by the Rangers team and received a piece of artwork done by Vernon Wells of his three sons.
Young and Wells began their friendship in 1997 when they were both drafted by the Blue Jays.
"The Rangers acquired one of the best people -- one of the best ballplayers that have graced this field in many, many years," said Wells. "Michael's one of those rare athletes that can be one of the best at what he does and be one of the best people that you'll ever meet. ... It's a privilege to play on the same field as him and it's even more of a privilege and honor to call him my best friend."
The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation also presented Young with $10,000 for his foundation, the Michael Young Family Foundation.
Young's numbers speak for themselves with 2,375 hits, 441 doubles, 60 triples and 185 home runs in 1,970 games in the majors. He finished with a .300 batting average and more than 1,000 RBIs.
But to those closest to him, Young is a person first, and a baseball player second.
"Quality individual. Professional. Difference maker. Quality guy," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "He wasn't just a baseball player. ... I think every young man or every young kid would jump at the opportunity to be in his presence. I keep trying to find adjectives to describe him -- if I had a dictionary, I could really describe him."
Among those in attendance were Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Notwitzki said he promised himself as soon as he found out that Young was to be honored Saturday, he'd do whatever it took to be there for his friend.
"He means so much to the city, to baseball," Notwitzki said. "I just think there's a lot of things that I'd like to do that he did over his career so I was a big fan -- always a big fan. I said, 'If I'm in town, there's no way I'm missing it.'"
Young thanked the fans for their loyalty and later said that he does miss playing baseball, but that he's enjoyed it from a different perspective now that he's hung up the jersey.
"It's easy for me to think along different lines now that I'm watching on TV," Young said. "Being able to sit back and being able to dissect the game in different ways is a lot of fun -- something I didn't know I would like so much."
Though Young said that later he would consider broadcasting, for now he only has one thing on the agenda.
"I want to be able to live my life in ways I haven't been able to do it. I haven't had any free time. ... I haven't had a summer since I was 10 years old. This is the first summer I've ever had off," Young said. "I am enjoying being here with my family."