KC Royals Chris Young Persevering Despite Loss


The KC Royals continue their hobbled slouch toward the end of the regular season. Thus far, on September 30th – prior to game time this evening against the Chicago White Sox – the Kansas City Royals have only won 10 games this month. They’ve lost 17.

If you want substantive justification for maintaining a positive outlook, here are two case histories to hang your ball cap on: 1) The 1980 KC Royals went 8-18 in September and (although they lost) they did make it to the World Series; 2) Last year, the-team-that-shall-not-be-named (from the Bay area) was just one game above .500 in the final month, and dropped 10 of their last 16 games. That team won it all – without, I remind myself – playing a single series in which they had home field advantage.

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So the loss of KC Royals mojo is one kind of loss. And that lost mojo is what all the players and fans are desperately hoping can be resurrected. But there is another, graver kind of loss that has been on my mind.

Chris Young’s performance this past Sunday against the Indians – throwing 5 innings of no-hit ball – was inspired and inspiring. But it was also a profoundly personal performance.

Immediately following Sunday’s game, we learned that Young’s father had died on Saturday night. The 36-year-old pitcher received the heartbreaking news late in the evening, roughly 12 hours before his scheduled Sunday start.

A released statement written by Young said, “Last night my dad, Charles Young, passed away at the age of 70. Today, I had the opportunity to honor him playing a game we both love, alongside my baseball family. I felt him next to me with every pitch.”

Not that this is all that rare (just ask my wife), but I felt the tears pooling as I listened to a Royals official read the statement.

Allow me a preemptive retort:

Sure, there are other people doing “important” things to whom we can (should?) look for inspiration. Malala Yousafzai, Scott Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords all come immediately to my mind. Hell, Elon Musk is almost single-handedly trying to literally save the fking planet!

We probably all have friends working in the medical field who save someone’s life now and then. That’s kind of a big deal. Or we have family members who barely eke out a living because they chose to teach or do humanitarian work, even though they are plenty bright enough to earn bigger bucks elsewhere. And single parents working two jobs while keeping their kids loved and in school are the unsung blue-collar saints in our post-recession American landscape.

So I get it. I, too, wish that inspiring people doing important things got more attention.

But I am not that choosy. I quit benching the messenger a long time ago, focusing instead on the message, devouring inspiration wherever I find it. (“Judge me not by the color of my uniform, but by my character on and off the field or clock.” Or something like that.)

The message I heard Sunday afternoon was this: A relatively young man lost his father. The next morning, that son got up and did something his father probably wanted –and taught – him to do. Namely, keep putting one cleeted foot in front of the other and do your best to not disappoint those who are counting on you. Channel that love you have, love that is now manifesting as some of the heaviest grief you will ever carry, into something positive.

None of us saw the burden Chris Young carried out to the mound each time he climbed it. We don’t know if the ball felt like a boulder or a pebble in his hand. We do know that he pitched his heart out.

We also know that Charles Young passed his love of the game on to Chris. And Chris took that love (and his pain) and did something good with it. That is inspiring.

But inspiration without action is mere intention. It just sits there like an abandoned rosin bag until it dissipates. So I made sure to do something decent with it, too. A small gesture, to be sure, but one I felt compelled to follow. Later that evening, I spoke with my father and made sure he knew what I needed him to know. Because we never know when. And because inspiration – like time and love – is a precious resource. I’ve wasted enough of all of them to know I should not waste any more.

Sincere condolences to Chris and his family. Godspeed to Charles Young.

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