The following story initially ran in SLAM 91 (September, 2005), and with the Royals in the World Series and Chris Young about to start Game 4 in a couple of nights, we figured now was a good time to re-run this piece on the MLB pitcher. Enjoy.—Ed.
This magazine may not show the national pastime its proper respect, but this writer does. That’s why I wasn’t surprised that one of the top young pitchers in the bigs, 6-10 Chris Young of the Texas Rangers, is the same athletic guy who left a two-year deal from the Kings on the table to play hardball. A former all-Ivy League basketball player at Princeton (kid is no dummy, either), Young had been bouncing around the minors for a few years when ex-Princeton coach and current Sacramento Kings’ assistant Pete Carril saw him working out in the Princeton gym. Carril saw enough to get Kings President of Basketball Ops Geoff Petrie (also a Princeton man) to offer Young a contract, which would have kicked in last November. As a late-season call-up of the Rangers, however, Young saw the light of the mound and decided to stick with throwing brushbacks instead of bounce passes. Now 26, he’s set in the MLB but still keeping an eye on the NBA.
SLAM: So even though you hadn’t played competitively since 2000, if you’d gone with the Kings you would’ve been on their official roster as recently as last fall?
Chris Young: Yeah, the contract was guaranteed. But the Rangers made a commitment as well, and I felt like I was improving as I got more experience, so I think I made the right choice.
SLAM: You’ve got a 3.16 ERA while starting for a first-place team, and you’ve got some great initials for a pitcher, so I’d say you did. Anyway, how does your basketball past help you in baseball?
CY: There aren’t a lot of similarities physically, but in baseball, when you reach a certain level everyone is about the same talent-wise, and what can set you apart are things like mental toughness. And I think I got a lot of mine from playing basketball at a high level.
SLAM: And the Kings were looking at you as a face-up four man?
CY: What they liked is how well I would fit in their system. I have a decent post game, but I’m not big enough for that in the League, so I think they would’ve used me like Brad Miller and Vlade Divac.
SLAM: Forgetting about career aspirations, what sport did you find more pure fun?
CY: Recreationally, definitely basketball. You can enjoy yourself with just a ball and a hoop, or get some people and have a pick-up game. You can’t do that in baseball. But as far as fun while competing, I like them the same.
SLAM: Do you still play pick-up?
CY: It’s pretty specifically outlawed in my contract, so no, but I’ll shoot around sometimes. Not that I have much time for that anyway.
SLAM: What about watching hoops? Got time for that?
CY: On TV, yes. College-wise, I follow Princeton, Northwestern and Georgetown, cause it’s all coaches from the Princeton family. In the NBA I follow the Kings for the same reason, but my favorite team is the Mavericks since I grew up in Dallas. I didn’t get to any of their playoff games, but I watched them on TV whenever our schedule allowed it. They have a very exciting team.
SLAM: Do your baseball teammates think your basketball past is pretty cool?
CY: I think so. Every year in spring training, the guys think I’m going to win the March Madness pool. I have to tell them I’m just a fan and I don’t know any more than they do.
SLAM: Sounds like me telling my non-magazine friends that my picks suck, too.
image via Getty