Thursday, August 25, 2011
Putting friendship to the test
By Mark Saxon
In October of 2010, Vernon Wells finally got to go to the playoffs. He just had to pay for his seats, like every other fan at the Texas Rangers’ ballpark.
Wells attended the Rangers’ playoff and World Series games near his home – and even a couple in New York – to support one of his closest friends, Rangers infielder Michael Young. Sometimes, he went with his wife and friends. Sometimes, he brought his two little boys.
But he didn’t miss one. That’s how much he cares about Young.
“You wish you were there, but being happy for him far outweighed anything else. Getting a chance to watch him finally get a chance to play in the post-season, to see the enjoyment in his face, it was fun,” Wells said.
What might prove even more fun for Wells is to force Young to stay home in October, because this time Wells is an Angel. His team is in a heated pennant race with Young’s Rangers. The teams play a crucial three-game series this weekend in Texas with the Angels trailing by just two games.
Wells and Young talk two or three times a week. Their families have become close over the years. But when the games start, there’s not a lot of room for empathy or chit chat.
“I love the guy like a brother and I want him to have great years every year of his career, but when we’re on the field I’m trying to win for my team and he’s trying to win for his,” Young told ESPNDallas.com’s Richard Durrett.
This friendship has an odd wrinkle to it. Wells grew up in South Arlington, about 10 minutes’ drive to the Rangers’ ballpark and still lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Young grew up in Covina, roughly 25 miles from Angel Stadium.
“We both get to go home while we’re on the road,” Wells said. “It’s a different way of looking at it, but we’re both in the same boat now.”
The two players have been friends for 14 years, bonding shortly after their were picked by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1997 draft. They played together at every level until Wells moved up to Triple-A in 2000 and Young moved on – traded to Texas for Esteban Loaiza that June.
From there, both players began building lucrative major-league careers, but until last season, Young, 34, had never played in the post-season. Wells, 32, still hasn’t – Until January, he was stuck in Toronto, which plays in a division dominated by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Young said it meant a lot to have Wells along during his playoff experiences.
“If he ever needed anything, I’d drop everything and help,” Young said. “He’d do the same.”