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|Mike Napoli knew what kind of player Michael Young was before Napoli even joined the Rangers and couldn't help but gravitate toward him.|
“What Young has done is put together a career year at age 34. Despite the offseason drama, Young managed to collect yet another 200-hit season, the sixth of his career and first since 2007. He had a career-high 106 RBIs. His average was .338 -- third-best in the AL, and the majors -- and he stayed around or above .330 the entire season, putting him in contention for his second batting title. He's just the fifth player since 1960 with more than one season of at least 200 hits, 40 doubles and 100 RBIs, and the first Ranger to do it (the only other Rangers with even one season like that are Buddy Bell in 1979 and Ruben Sierra in 1991). Young isn't surprised by his season. He worked in spring training to shore up some things at third base on defense and to learn the intricacies of first base, a position he'd never played in his baseball life. The rest of it -- preparing to hit, staying in shape, going through his routine -- was unchanged from how he's done things for most of his 11-year career. "I knew I was going to find ways to keep myself healthy," Young said. "Obviously, I don't want to see my teammates get banged up. I want everyone to stay healthy because we have a better chance to win games. But I knew I was going to get some time on the field. It's good to have depth and keep everyone fresh. If you can bounce around the DH, guys are fresh and have their legs." Manager Ron Washington made sure early in the season, when he had a healthy infield, that he still got Young in the field about twice a week. He played some at first to get the hang of it and would spell Kinsler at second for a day or Adrian Beltre at third. Then, in late July, Beltre went on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. Young became the everyday third baseman, handling the role Daniels and the front office felt was critical when they signed Beltre and shifted Young to DH. "We felt he could do so many things, and we've seen that," Daniels said. "The way things played out and unfolded from a communication or relationship standpoint, nobody was happy with that, especially me. I'm not going to go back through that, but the bottom line as far as the construction of the team is that having a versatile club, having guys that can pick teammates up, he's one of those that can do that. I've been thrilled from that standpoint with the way it's worked out." Young saw improvement in his own game, thanks to constant work in spring training and at times during the regular season with infield coach Dave Anderson. "I have made some really good adjustments at third base this year because I knew exactly what I wanted to do," Young said. "I had two years under my belt. I know how difficult it is to switch positions. It's not a switch 20 feet to your right. You might as well be playing a different sport. It's that different. Your jumps are different, your setup is different, and to me I was really inconsistent with my setup and first step." So that was his focus, and Young saw "a massive difference" in those skills as he spent a bunch of time at third base in late July and all of August. All the while, he continued to hit. "He hits the ball to all fields and just gets hits consistently," Washington said. "He's an awesome hitter and a professional. Look what he's done out there. It's MVP stuff." Young doesn't spend much time talking about the individual accomplishments. That's just not his style. That attitude has further endeared him to his teammates. So Napoli, among others, has taken to showering Young with compliments in a fun-loving way. He created a "Ranger Man" T-shirt and even made a Superman "cape" out of one of the towels earlier this season, listing many of Young's impressive stats. It took him a while. "Our lockers are close together, so we're always talking and I'm always messing around with him," Napoli said. "He's so humble and he's so focused on winning. He always overlooks what he does. He doesn't want any of that stuff, so I go overboard with it to let him know what he does. I think it's cool that someone like that can't even think about what he's done in this game. He thinks about team and winning." And getting a taste of the postseason and advancing to the World Series, but losing, makes Young hungry to hoist a World Series trophy this time. "It fuels the fire and gives you a lot of motivation," Young said. "I still have a ton of baseball in front of me, but it makes it easier to focus on the ultimate goal. I could see last year how much fun it is to get to the top of the mountain. I'm excited about the opportunity we have and the opportunity we'll continue to have." Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.
He does everything the right way, plays the game hard and is a professional. The way he goes about his business and the way he handles things, I always thought, 'Man, I'd love to play with him some day.'” -- Mike Napoli talking about Michael Young