After the busiest, most intense season of his professional baseball life, Jared Young is back home in Prince George taking a much-deserved breather,
Young was surrounded by elite company the past two months playing in the six-team Arizona Fall League along with 179 other minor pro players considered top prospects for Major League Baseball.
He played first base for the Mesa Solar Sox, a team chosen from the Chicago Cubs, Oakland A’s, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels, and they just finished a 30-game schedule which ended Oct. 26. His AFL stint came right after he played 123 games of a 140-game season in the double-A Southern League with the Tennessee Smokies.
"It was a lot of games, a lot of travel and I loved every minute of it but I'm happy to be home relaxing now," said the 24-year-old Young. "It ended up being quite a lot of baseball and it was so much fun, but I definitely have to take some time and recoup my body a little bit."
Facing pitchers making a push for the majors, Young played 14 games for the Solar Sox and finished with a .196 batting average with nine hits, two doubles, a home run and four RBI. His best day at the plate was on Oct. 10, when he hit 3-for-4 with a double against the Salt River Rafters, while his mom and other family members from Prince George watched from the stands.
On Oct. 20 in a game against the Peoria Javelinas Young belted a solo shot over the wall, connecting on a pitch from Houston Astros top prospect Forrest Whitley.
"It was an awesome time, it couldn't be a better group of guys that I ended up getting out together with," said Young. "That always makes it fun, and what a group of ball players. I had six teammates from the Cubs and 25 or so other teammates that fit together nicely.
"I was really proud I could be part of that league. I'm not too worried about numbers and stuff like that but I do wish I'd done a little bit better and it's something I'll learn from and take into next year. I'm proud of what I did and I'll get back at it next year."
After a stellar 2018 in which he was chosen the Cubs minor league player of the year Young was promoted to the Southern League with the Smokies, based in Knoxville, Tenn. Playing mostly at first base and sometimes in the outfield, he had 455 at-bats and hit .235 with five home runs, 21 doubles, a triple and 57 RBI with 33 walks and scored 44 runs. His bat heated up in the final month and he batted .276 in his last 10 games, including two doubles, a home run and six walks.
"It was a big jump (from single-A level) and things didn't work out the way I wanted to but it was an unbelievable experience," Young said. "As you move up it's going to get harder. I think next year will be important and I'm looking forward to that."
Playing through the heat of summer in the humidity that comes up from the Gulf Coast was taxing on Young's body and he struggled at times dealing with the physical effects of exerting himself in those conditions.
"It's a hot league and that was one thing that caught me off-guard, I should have known better," he said. "You have to stay on top of your appetite. Playing games and that every day you lose weight pretty quick and I noticed that at the beginning of the year until I made that adjustment. You just have to eat more."
The younger son of Dana and Randy Young was drafted in the 15th round by the Cubs in 2017 while he was playing in the NCAA for Old Dominion University in Virginia. He played rookie ball that year in the Northwest League with the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds and started the 2018 season in Indiana with the Class A South Bend Cubs of the Midwest League. In midsummer the Cubs moved him to the Advanced-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans in South Carolina, and he finished the season playing in the Carolina League. His combined batting average with South Bend and Myrtle Beach was .300 and he hit 16 home runs and had 76 RBI, more than any Cubs' minor leaguer.
Young was reminded how close he's getting to the majors after the Smokies' season ended when Chicago called up his teammate, shortstop Nico Hoerner, as an injury replacement. In his MLB debut Sept. 9 against San Diego Hoerner his a single in his first at-bat and went 3-for-5 with four RBI. He played 20 games for Chicago and hit .282 with three home runs and 17 RBI.
"It's definitely rewarding to see it and it make you think we're not that far away," said Young. "Nico had an incredible September. It's just fun to watch your friend and your teammate get up there and succeed."
Eleven Canadians played in the majors last season and there were 132 minor leaguers in 2019, including Young, who call Canada home. While our winter climate makes year-round play outdoors virtually impossible Young says there are more indoor facilities popping up which help break down those weather barriers.
"There's just more facilities and more (players) realizing you to put in the work, just as much as they do in the United States, and of course the talent will reflect that and more and more guys will make the MLB," Young said.
Young plans to return to more baseball-like weather in Arizona in January to get ready for the start of the Cubs' spring training camp in February. Until then, he plans to try to add some bulk to his six-foot-one, 185-pound frame working with weights in the gym and will also be taking regular swings in the indoor cage at the new Northern Baseball Training facility at 1654 Ogilvie St., opened last week by former college players Doug and Chris Clark and Brandon Hunter.
Young is the first Prince George-born-and-bred baseball player ever to make a professional minor league roster and now that kids have the chance to train through the winter months, chances are he won't be the last.
"I hope it shows that the longer you play baseball you still have a chance," he said. "My path hasn't exactly been a straight line but I worked really hard and trusted myself the whole time on all these decisions I made and it's worked out. I'm just very thankful for all the people who have helped me along the way, there's been a ton."