Baseball been berry, berry good to Jared

Nearly 40 years ago, long before Jared Young was born and shortly after the New York Yankees defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1978 World Series, one of baseball's most famous phrases was first said.

It wasn't one of the many gems dropped by the legendary Yankee catcher and manager Yogi Berra. Instead, it was uttered on Saturday Night Live by one of the supporting cast in a skit that included both John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.

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"Baseball been berry, berry good to me," was actually said by Garrett Morris, portraying the fictional Chico Escuela, a former major league all-star from the Dominican Republic who played with the Chicago Cubs. In the routine, Escuela has been hired by the St. Mickey's Knights of Columbus for $900 to give a motivational speech.

"Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me. Thank you. God bless you. Gracias!" is Escuela's entire speech in a thick Hispanic accent, to Belushi and Aykroyd's great disappointment.

The phrase caught on, as so many Saturday Night Live lines have over the years. The Escuela character became the sports correspondent for Weekend Update in later episodes that season, repeating "baseball been berry, berry good to me" to the cheers of the live audience.

Twenty years later, when Young was just a toddler, Sammy Sosa, a real life major league all-star with a real-life thick Hispanic accent playing with the real-life Chicago Cubs, jokingly used the line a few times with reporters.

And now there's Young, now a 23-year-old Chicago Cubs draft pick from Prince George, as remote and unlikely a town to ever produce a professional baseball player, who was named Tuesday as the minor league player of the year in the entire Chicago Cubs organization.

Baseball been berry, berry good to Jared.

Everywhere he's gone since he left Prince George for his Grade 12 year to play in the B.C. Premier League in Kelowna, he's excelled.

While in Kelowna, he landed a scholarship to play at the tiny Minot State University, a school smaller than UNBC in Minot, North Dakota, a city smaller than Prince George.

The year after, he moved up to Connors State in Warner, Oklahoma, which, for Merle Haggard fans, is in Muskogee County, where people are proud to be an Okie from Muskogee.

Then it was on to Old Dominion University, a much larger school in the much larger city of Norfolk, Virginia. A short drive to the northeast, away from Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean into the rural interior of the state, lies Prince George County.

The Chicago Cubs noticed this sweet-swinging kid from Canada and picked him up in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball draft last year.

Leaving behind three years of academic studies towards a degree in sports management, Young went from Old Dominion to the Eugene, Ore., Emeralds in the Northwest League.

This spring, he started the season with the South Bend, Ind., Cubs, made the Midwest League all-star team and then was called up in July to play for the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Pelicans, where he continued to excel both at the plate and in various positions in the field.

To put Young's accomplishments into perspective, he's the only Prince George baseball player to ever play every day on a Major League Baseball farm team, never mind being named that team's top minor league player of the year.

That honour comes with a trip to the legendary Wrigley Field in Chicago next week for both him and his proud family (including his mom Dana, a longtime Citizen advertising sales representative) so he can throw out the ceremonial first pitch next Thursday before the Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates in the final week of the regular season.

And the ride might only be getting started for Young.

Home in Prince George for the month of September after the Myrtle Beach Pelicans didn't make the playoffs, he was told to rest before heading to Arizona for fall and winter strength and conditioning camps, staying in shape and preparing himself for spring training.

He no doubt has his eyes on making the Cubs' AA team in Tennessee or even the AAA squad in Iowa in 2019, the last stop before playing for the big team in Chicago against the very best pitchers and hitters in the world.

Wherever his baseball journey takes him next or even if, God forbid, this is the highlight of his professional athletic career, there's no taking away his accomplishments so far. He'll always be the 2018 minor league player of the year for the Chicago Cubs and he'll always be the guy who got to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a game at Wrigley Field.

As great as that is, however, Young is hungry for more.

Lucky for him, he's got a whole city cheering him on.

And the hoots and hollers from the Citizen office are his mom Dana, watching his plate appearances during an afternoon game on a live online feed in between her calls to clients and drawing a crowd at her desk when her boy crushes another double into the gap.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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