PHOENIX — Andy Young has been doing everything he can to stay in shape over the last few months for the resumption of Major League Baseball and another shot at the big leagues. After a 2020 season looked questionable, Young is set to return to spring training 2.0 this week.
Young, a 2012 West Fargo High School graduate, will be pushing for his major-league debut this season as part of the Arizona Diamondbacks' 60-man player pool.
Named to the Diamondbacks’ 40-man roster in November, the infielder was named to the team's 60-man roster Monday, June 29. For the shortened MLB season, each club can have up to 60 players in its player pools.
“I feel ready as ever. The Diamondbacks did a good job of giving me everything I needed to stay in shape. I didn’t have to get a job, they took care of me financially,” Young said. “So it was just kind of on me to stay in shape, and I had a lot of time, so I feel like I’m ready to go. I feel like I could play a game tomorrow.”
After weeks of back-and-forth negotiation between the players association and league following the initial suspension March 12, it was uncertain whether teams would play ball this year.
“I think I've been playing baseball every summer since I was 10,” Young said. “So if they canceled the season, I don't know what I would do. I'd be a little bit lost for a second. But all jokes aside, it is exciting. I’m ready to get it going for real here.”
An agreement was reached last week for a 60-game season that would open July 23 or 24, about three weeks out from the league’s second spring training. The Diamondbacks' summer camp begins Friday, July 3.
Those who don’t make the active roster, which will have 30 players to start, will be on what's called a "taxi squad" and will train at an alternative site, which is Salt River Fields in Scottsdale for the Diamondbacks, the team’s spring training complex.
“We’ll stay there and we'll stay ready in case they want to make a move for us to go up to the major leagues, or for something like that,” he said.
With the minor league baseball season looking like it may not happen this year, the players on the taxi squad will be ready for the up and down movement that happens in a typical season, and will also cover for sick or injured players.
If Young does get called up, his major-league debut would be a lot different than those before him, including fellow West Fargo graduate Matt Strahm, a San Diego Padres pitcher. With coronavirus restrictions varying from state to state, fan attendance is uncertain.
“I was talking to Matt Strahm about that,” Young said. “He was talking about his debut, saying how amped up he was, how exciting and special it was having his family in the crowd, having a bunch of people yelling at him and being able to really see these sites at full capacity,” Young said.
But if the moment comes, whether the seats are empty or filled wouldn’t make a difference.
“Any time you get an opportunity to play in the major leagues, you're not going to be disappointed,” Young said. “I think I would just be excited to do it this year, and then next year, I’ll get the experience with the fans. It would be different, but I’d rather have it be different than not at all.”
If Young wasn’t put on the Diamondbacks’ 40-man roster in November or the 60-man player pool, he may not have had a chance to play baseball this year.
“I’m fortunate that I'm on that list, but a lot of people (might) have to miss a year, unfortunately,” he said.
Before the initial suspension, Young played in 14 straight games this spring, cracking seven hits, including a home run, in 20 at-bats.
With the shortened 60-game format for the league that normally plays 162 games, Young thinks it’ll make each game matter a lot more.
“Everyone’s going to try to win right out of the gate. I think it’s going to be really exciting for the players and for the fans,” he said. “There's going to be no teams that are gonna have the time to ease into a season. It’s just gonna kind of be cutthroat, every game matters. I think it’s going to be very exciting.”