The saga of UC Davis senior Adam Young is a never-too-late baseball story that should serve as inspiration for teammates and fans alike.
Young, an infielder from West Covina, came into 2014 having started 60 games for the Aggies. Primarily a shortstop or second baseman, the Damian High graduate presented himself as all glove, no bat.
Over three seasons, the slick-fielding Young had hit but .211. He scored only 17 runs with 14 runs batted in (in 171 at-bats).
With a strong second baseman in Steve Patterson and Tino Lipson improving at shortstop, it looked like Young would be odd Aggie out.
But Young listened to suggestions in the offseason and got some serious time at third while playing summer ball at Plymouth in New England. Last August, he settled in at the hot corner and began to come on at the plate.
Through fall sessions and into preseason training, Young worked. And worked…
Replacing the graduated Paul Politi at the hot corner, this versatile Aggie is now the Big West’s sixth-best hitter (.349).
UCD skipper Matt Vaughn chatted about Young’s 11th-hour emergence:
“Coming into this year (third base) was a position that was open for someone to win. We wanted it to be Adam, but he had to come out show us that he was going to do it.”
Aggies coaches convinced Pilgrims manager Greg Zackrison to give Young third-base duty at Plymouth. And the experience in Massachusetts changed his whole game …
“I learned a lot in summer ball … picked up a few pointers from other players,” Young said. “There were a lot of different perspectives I embraced … especially working middle-away (at the plate) instead of going up there free swinging.”
He credited Zackrison and “a few ball players from throughout the country” as he picked up good habits and tweaked a revised open stance into the New Adam Young.
In addition to hitting .138 points higher than his three-year lifetime mark, he’s already scored 17 times for the Aggies in 2014. His 12 RBIs are two off his previous career total.
Vaughn loves the lead-by-example tone his co-captain brings to the field.
“Guys can look to him and say ‘Hey, even though he didn’t have the best average for three years, he still came back focused and wanted to win a spot,’ ” said the former UCD player.
“That shows the younger guys that you’re never out of it.”
Young, who missed the last two games with a wrist injury, at one point this year was batting over .400. Back-to-back 0-for-5s last week hurt that average, but Vaughn believes the rest has helped Young on the road to recovery.
Young returned to the practice lineup Wednesday and said he felt “better.”
Young’s improvement aside, what does the sociology major see as the big difference between last year’s 19-37 Aggie squad and this scrappy 17-20 lot?
“We have a big team mind-set this year,” Young told The Enterprise. “We’re picking up each other, building off each other. Below .500 is not where we want to be, but we’re hoping to get back there this weekend.”
With Young expected back in the lineup, UCD (3-9 in Big West Conference play) now entertains UC Irvine (25-14, 8-1) in a three-game set at Dobbins Stadium. Friday is a 2:30 p.m. start with Saturday and Sunday face-offs at 1 p.m. The Anteaters received votes in this week’s NCAA Top 30 poll. Big West leader Cal Poly (35-5, 11-1) is ranked No. 2 with UC Santa Barbara (No.25) and Cal State Fullerton (No. 29) also ranked.
After a three-game sweep at the hands of the UC Riverside last weekend, can the Aggies bounce back?
“Yes,” Young insisted. “We need to string quality at-bats together, throw strikes and play defense. What’s done is done. (We need) to look forward to the future now.”
“As bad as Riverside looks, I’m proud of our guys. We didn’t get very good starts in those first two games (falling behind 10-1 and 7-1). We fought back to make them one-run games. We had our opportunities.
“It’s a testament to these guys that they didn’t lay down.”
It could be that Young, even from the dugout, wouldn’t let them quit.
Notes: The son of real estate professional Greg and stay-at-home mom Patricia, Adam Young has two siblings — former Cal Poly student Chris, 22, and 19-year-old sister Eryn, just named Santa Barbara City College Volleyball Player of the Year. … Young wants to study law, perhaps seeking a career as a sports agent. He’ll graduate in June and take a year off from school, seeking an internship with an agency before making a final decision on law school. … Izaak Silva, struggling at .214 for the Aggies, had a huge day in a Wednesday intrasquad session. Silva smacked a grand slam home run and a booming triple to left-center. “It was good for him to get a little confidence, even if it was in practice,” Vaughn said. … UCD is tied with Hawaii in eighth place in the Big West. …The Aggie staff ERA of 4.81 is dead last in league. … The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association announced its mid-season watch list for the 10th Annual NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award and UCD closer Zach Stone joined three other Big West student-athletes on the 50-player list. Also representing the Big West is UC Irvine’s Sam Moore, Cal Poly’s Reed Reilly and UC Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate. Stone had eight saves this spring — one short of the Aggie single-season record. Moore’s 16 saves lead the nation.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.