SAN DIEGO — Andy Young’s first Major League Baseball home run couldn’t have been drawn up more perfectly.
The Arizona Diamondbacks rookie infielder belted a 419-foot bomb that sailed over the fence in left-center field and into the San Diego Padres’ bullpen at Petco Park. The ball landed in front of Matt Strahm, Young’s former teammate, who held onto it.
“It was pretty cool. After the game, he came back and gave it to me on the field,” Young said. “That was pretty cool to catch up with him and have him give me my first home run ball. I mean, you couldn't draw it up any better.”
Nothing was going to stop Strahm from giving Young his first MLB home run ball, but only Jeff Young, Andy’s dad, knew that at the time.
“The game couldn’t have been over 60 seconds and I got a text from Matt Strahm saying: ‘I jumped over the fence, I grabbed the ball, I’m holding it hostage. They really haven’t let Andy and I talk to each other with all the COVID-19 rules, but I told the Diamondbacks bullpen that I wasn’t going to give up the home run ball unless I got a chance to talk to Andy,’” Jeff said in an interview on Dom Izzo's Hot Mic show on WDAY 970-AM.
Young cracked the two-run home run off Padres reliever Luis Patino in the ninth inning Sunday, Aug. 9, in the final game in a three-game series between the Padres and Diamondbacks.
Strahm, a pitcher for San Diego, is a 2010 West Fargo High School graduate. Young graduated from West Fargo in 2012.
“It was really special. We’ve had a chance to follow Matt and pull for him for a lot of years, and it was neat to see him doing the same for Andy,” Jeff said. “He was sincerely excited.”
Off the bat Young knew he hit the ball really well — normally when he hits it like that, it’s a home run. But he watched Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker have a few swings that landed at the warning track earlier in the game, and had that in the back of his mind.
“I thought it was a home run, but I also wasn't sticking around in the box too long to wait,” he said. “I was running out of the box.”
It felt pretty normal for Young as he rounded out the bases, he said. When it actually sank in was after the game when he checked his phone, which was flooded with text messages.
“In the moment, it felt pretty normal. I think when you’re playing out there, you just concentrate on the game, and you've played so many games that it feels like it's just another game,” he said.
Young’s phone has been blowing up for more than a week now. He was called up to the Diamondbacks’ 30-man roster Saturday, Aug. 1, in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He got his first Major League hit on Tuesday, Aug. 4, against the Houston Astros. Young went 2-for-2 in that game with a double and also scored a run.
“It's hard to even put into words. Just being called up was amazing. It’s a lifelong dream that I got to fulfill. And then to get my first hit, my first home run. All of those things together, it almost doesn't feel real yet, but it is pretty cool,” Young said.
Young’s parents put a ball in his crib when he was around two days old, so rising to the sport’s highest level is a dream come true.
When Young got the call Friday night, July 31, he thought it was about taking his next COVID-19 test, Jeff said. Instead, he was informed he’d be on the roster against the Dodgers the following day.
It was about 11:15 p.m. in Fargo when Jeff heard the news. He had a ticket by 3 a.m. and at 6 a.m., he was on a flight to Phoenix. Young’s parents and sisters couldn’t be in the stadium, but they were in the same city, watching on TV.
When the minor league season was canceled, Andy wasn’t sure he’d get any games at all, Jeff said.
“He had been practicing since January, we’d watched him grind without a lot of games,” Jeff said. “So the chance to not only just play a game this summer, but take that next step was really special. We were so excited for him. It would’ve been fun (to be in attendance), but really at the end it didn’t matter that much.”
Young made his debut in front of an empty stadium. Fans aren’t allowed to attend games because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He got to see his family after for a bit, but it was pretty short lived, he said.
Young has played in five games for the Diamondbacks through Monday's games. The 26-year-old rookie was batting .375 (3-for-8) with one double, one home run and three RBIs. Young was in the starting lineup for Arizona on Tuesday, Aug. 11, against Colorado. He was batting lead off and playing designated hitter.