07/06/2003 8:00 PM ET
Young struts stuff as an All-Star
Versatile slugger will be lone Tigers representative
Cast your ballot in the etopps All-Star Final Vote
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
AL All-Star roster
NL All-Star roster
Dmitri Young boldly proclaimed in Spring Training, "Detroit hasn't seen the real Dmitri Young play." With that addressed, for the first time, the Motor City will watch the All-Star Dmitri Young play.
For Young's track record as a hitter -- four .300-hitting seasons, a 48-double year and a career average hovering near .300 -- he has never been an All-Star. That changed Sunday, when rosters were officially announced.
"Keep in mind that I missed a half season last year and I really wanted to prove to Detroit Tigers fans they didn't get another injury-prone guy," Young said. "I worked hard this offseason to get myself in condition to help this team.
"Actually to get myself in position to make an All-Star team, from an individual standpoint, this is a great honor."
How much it means to Young, most others couldn't comprehend. Young himself, a student of the game and all its history, didn't soak it all in immediately.
"When I get home, behind closed doors, I'll just be proud and let out a couple of tears for the hard work paying off," he admitted.
With AL manager Mike Scioscia's choice of Young as a reserve, Young became the seventh Tiger in as many years to make his first All-Star team as Detroit's lone representative. He was the team's logical pick for at least the last month, but his contributions would've warranted a spot even if the Tigers weren't guaranteed one.
"This is not a charity pick," said manager Alan Trammell, who broke the news to Young remembering his own first-time selection back in 1980. "He's having a heckuva year and I hope it continues because we need him. I don't think it will be the last time for him, but I know the first one is special."
Young's OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) of .922 ranks 17th among AL hitters on a team that has struggled mightily for offense. His .294 average entering Sunday stood 65 points higher than the team batting average. He has either scored or driven in 26.5 percent of Detroit's offense.
Young leads the Tigers in virtually every statistic that requires a bat: average, on-base and slugging percentages, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs and RBIs. At 169 total bases, good for 10th among AL hitters, he was the only Detroit hitter in triple digits until Eric Munson homered Sunday.
All of this has come in spite of a Tigers lineup that has struggled and been shuffled to provide support around him. A teamwide first-month slump, moreover, threatened to take him with it. He ended May 1 with a .170 average, .521 OPS and a swing that was off on its timing. Though his confidence never wavered that he would reach his customary numbers, he wasn't receiving any favors.
His season turned around one incredible night in Baltimore, where he went 5-for-5 with two homers and two triples May 6. His 15 total bases that night fell one short of Ty Cobb's single-game franchise record. Combined with a 2-for-4 effort the previous night, Young raised his average from .177 to .229 in two days.
Five days later, Young again fell a hit shy of the cycle, this time short a home run in a 3-for-5 outing at Tampa Bay. From there, he became the steady force in the lineup that the Tigers envisioned when they acquired from Cincinnati two winters ago for Juan Encarnacion and Luis Pineda. He was named AL Player of the Week at the end of May following an 11-for-24, three-homer, seven-RBI stretch. He hit .355 with six homers and 25 RBIs in May to earn AL Player of the Month consideration, then hit six more homers in June while batting .330.
"No question, he was the only choice for us," Trammell said.
In terms of power, that's well more than Young's customary numbers. With 17 home runs already, he needs four to match his single-season best. He's on pace for the best power season by a Tiger in the Comerica Park era, which has yielded one 30-homer hitter in three-plus seasons (Bobby Higginson hit 30 in 2000).
"I worked hard," Young said. "I wanted to prove something and right now it's starting to pay off, but there's the second half left."
Even with his offensive firepower and strong swing, Young has started consecutive games without a hit only once since April, a tribute to his consistency.
Young plans to have a heavy presence for the Mid-summer Classic in Chicago from his family, which a month ago was celebrating little brother Delmon's honor as the top pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Along with calling his wife, kids and parents, he had a special message for Delmon.
"I told him, 'I've set the standards. You've got to break this one,'" Young said. "He said, 'What are you talking about?' (I said) I made the All-Star team. He said, 'Oh, boy.'"
How Dmitri will be used in the game, however, is more in question. Young spent most of the first half in left field but has 13 starts at third base, where he contributed a handful of remarkable plays to the Tigers' first-half highlights. While the AL All-Star team has four other reserve outfielders -- pending the Final Vote balloting on MLB.com -- Texas' Hank Blalock is the lone reserve at third base behind Anaheim's Troy Glaus. With home-field advantage for the World Series on the line at this year's All-Star Game, Young could conceivably be a versatile reserve in the later innings along with Baltimore's Melvin Mora.
"I'll bring all my gloves," Young said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.