Dmitri Young was thrilled with the Twins' trade for his brother, Delmon. "This is the perfect time for him to become known as a new Twin," Dmitri said, "and not 'the Bat-Flinger.' "
The Young Bros. are accustomed to seeing their lives summarized in headlines. Dmitri has survived substance abuse, life-threatening diabetes, charges of domestic abuse and career upheaval, and in 2007 he became the National League Comeback Player of the Year.
Delmon is most notorious for flinging his bat at a minor league umpire in 2006, and in 2007 he became runner-up for American League Rookie of the Year.
Wednesday, Delmon became not only a Twin, but a new Twin emblematic of new General Manager Bill Smith's aggressiveness. Smith's predecessor, Terry Ryan, rarely traded away quality pitching, or acquired players with problematic reputations.
Smith did both, sending righthander Matt Garza to Tampa Bay for Young in a six-player deal the Twins think could land them a future MVP candidate, if Delmon can learn from his, and his brother's, past.
"It's a fresh start," Delmon Young said Thursday. "It's a nice change of scenery, and I'm joining an organization that's trying to win every year. They've got the batting champ, the MVP and the Manager of the Year up there."
Obviously, Delmon is trying to say all of the right things -- even giving Ron Gardenhire an award he has yet to win.
Saying and doing all of the right things has not been Delmon Young's strength.
Despite an age difference of 12 years, Dmitri says he and his little brother are remarkably similar. They are the proud sons of an accomplished military man. They are remarkably talented. They have invited and then tried to distance themselves from their troubles. And, according to Dmitri, they are emblematic of young athletes given too much attention and money.
"Being an athlete, the human factor is taken out," said Dmitri, now with the Washington Nationals. "We're in the public eye. We earn our way to the big leagues. We make X amount of dollars. That doesn't exempt us from having problems in our lives.
"Delmon was 19, 20 years old at the time he threw that bat. A lot of people have done stupid things at 19 or 20 that never got published. Because you're drafted No. 1, you're supposed to have all of these standards and morals in place. We're human. We make mistakes. It's how you come out of those mistakes that makes the man."
Dmitri and Delmon say their father, Larry, taught them how to hit and pushed them to work at the game. "He's been my main influence and No. 1 fan," Delmon said. "He was my hitting coach growing up. He dedicated a lot of time to baseball, and he told me if I wanted to play at this level I had to sacrifice a lot of time with friends, a lot of play time, to make it in baseball."
Larry grew up poor in Mississippi and became one of the Navy's first black F-14 fighter pilots. "My dad worked his way into being what he is now," Dmitri said. "Now he's a Delta pilot. He went into basic training, and the trainers there told him he'd never be more than a helicopter pilot, that he didn't have what it takes to be a fighter pilot.
"My dad had one goal in mind, and that was to be a fighter pilot. He was going to prove them wrong. Delmon has that same makeup. Sometimes it can be interpreted the wrong way, but if you're around Del, and you know him, he's one of the coolest people you can ever be around."
Dmitri was the fourth pick in the 1991 draft, by the Cardinals. Twelve years later, the Devil Rays made Delmon the first pick in the draft. Before he made it to the majors, he had flipped his bat at an umpire, drawing a 50-game suspension without pay, and had ripped into the Rays for being too cheap to call their best young players to the majors.
"Making mistakes is going to happen," Delmon said. "And in our profession, everyone's going to know what you do. You've just got to watch and learn so you don't do the same things over again.
"You can't go back and change the past. I'm just looking forward to playing in Minnesota and becoming a new person."
Dmitri lives in D.C., Delmon in Camarillo, Calif. "When I went through all of my stuff, Delmon was the one who told me I still had something in the tank," Dmitri said. "Whenever I go to California, I hang out with Del. A lot of my friends are married, and I'm divorced, so I like hanging with Del and his friends.
"When I signed with the Cardinals, he was 5 years old. I never got to see him play. My friends were always calling me, saying, 'You've got to see what your brother is doing, he's a terror on the baseball field. The funny thing is, everything I've done is almost a mirror image of what he ended up doing. I set a standard, he shatters it."
For years, Twins players lobbied for management to acquire Dmitri; now they've landed his more volatile and more talented brother.
This trade is a reminder that all young players are risks. The Twins had doubts about Garza's dedication and composure, and the Rays had questions about Young. If you're the Twins and desperate for young hitters, a 22-year-old slugger with Young's talent is a risk worth taking.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. firstname.lastname@example.org