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Young finishes stellar season on a high

When he looks back on his baseball career, Jared Young will always consider 2017 the year he showed up as a blip on Major League Baseball radar screens.
Jared Young of Prince George eyes an opposing pitcher while playing for the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League.

When he looks back on his baseball career, Jared Young will always consider 2017 the year he showed up as a blip on Major League Baseball radar screens.

Almost unknown among pro scouts after two solid seasons in the NCAA Division 2 and junior college ranks, Young kept climbing the U.S. college charts at Old Dominion University in Virginia while playing NCAA Division 1 ball and made a big impression on the Chicago Cubs.

In his final college season Young played 58 games for the Monarchs and finished third in Conference USA with a .367 batting average. His .441 on-base percentage ranked ninth in the conference and his .580 slugging percentage put him in the top-10.

The Cubs picked him in the 15th round of the July draft and assigned the 22-year-old Prince George-born-and-bred second baseman to his first professional team, the Eugene Emeralds, their Northwest League Class A affiliate.

That worked out pretty well for Young. The Ems made it all the way to the Northwest League championship series, which ended last week in Vancouver with a 2-1 loss to the Canadians in Game 4 of the best-of-five series in front of 5,288 spectators at Nat Bailey Stadium. Young was the only Canadian-born player on the Eugene roster.

"The atmosphere of professional playoff baseball was awesome and I really loved playing in those games," said Young. "Making it to the championship and getting to come back to play in Vancouver was what I wanted the whole time. I wanted to play in front of some friends and family. I tip my hat to them because Vancouver played great and they beat us.

"I loved being the only Canadian, it felt good."

It took Young the better part of two months to adjust to pro pitching but he finished the season with his bat spewing flames. In the last week of the regular season, Young picked on pitchers mercilessly. As the Northwest League player of the week that ended Sept. 5, he hit 15-for-23 with a home run, three doubles, eight RBI and nine runs scored. His .652 batting average eclipsed that of every other minor leaguer that week and it could not have happened at a better time.

The Ems kept up the hot streak in the first round of playoffs and swept the first-place Hillsboro Hops in two games to win the South Division, moving on to the championship series.

"(The Ems coaches) were talking about leaving a good impression and finishing strong and I wasn't really thinking about that too much but everything just clicked at the right time, I guess," Young said. "I tried to not keep up to it too much, it'd been a long year and I was pretty sick and tired of looking at stats and when things started going good I just tried to keep an even keel."

In his last 10 games to end the season, including six playoff games, Young hit .359, batting in 10 runs to finish with a .257 batting average.

As young told last week: "I've been working with (hitting coach) Chris Valaika and (manager) Jesus (Feliciano) on just the mental aspect of the game. And it's just taking that to the plate and seeing a fastball and making sure you don't miss them. I didn't have the greatest of starts, and I'll admit that. It was definitely mental, too. It's been a couple of mechanical things that I've been working on, but to go on a streak like this, I think it's more mental, staying the course and not staying too high or too low."

Defensively, Young was anything but a liability. In 107 chances with the Ems he made just three errors and posted a .972 fielding average. Impressive numbers, especially for a rookie.

"It's something I wanted to work on so when I got to the pros there was no doubt and I'd like to think there isn't much doubt anymore," he said.

Young will next travel to Mesa, Ariz., for the Cubs' prospects instructional camp. The camp started Monday but he won't have to report until next week because the Ems went so deep in the playoffs. He's now back in Virginia spending some time with his Old Dominion college buddies. They went to the Old Dominion-University of North Carolina football game on Saturday. He plans to return to Prince George once the Cubs camp is complete.