Young Returns To Durham

Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young returned to the lineup Monday night at Triple-A Durham after serving a 50-game suspension, but with everything that’s been happening with the Bulls recently, Young taking the field for the first time since April 26 merely serves as a backdrop for deeper issues.

As Young returns from his suspension for tossing his bat at the home plate umpire in a game against Pawtucket, striking him in the chest in April, two of the other Rays’ top position prospects–B.J. Upton and Elijah Dukes–have run into problems off the field.

Upton was arrested in Chapel Hill, N.C. early Friday morning after he was suspected of driving while intoxicated. Dukes, who’s been arrested five times over his five-year career, was suspended by the club over the weekend after he got into an altercation with Durham outfielder Ryan Knox. The club has suspended him indefinitely and sent him home to Tampa pending an investigation into the incident.

“All I know is what I see from the other dugout and what I hear is going on (in Durham),” one International League manager said. “And from what I hear, the inmates are running the asylum.” Three other International League managers agreed with that assessment.

But the Devil Rays refused to address any of those issues surrounding the team during Young’s press conference Monday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, though Bulls manager John Tamargo–who was also suspended 10 games by the IL for a run-in with an umpire in May–alluded to the distractions.

“It’s been very tough for me,” Tamargo said. “It’s tough, you’ve got some personalities here and you’ve got to be able to deal with them. At times, we’ve done so-so and sometimes we’ve done a little bit better, but it is tough.

“And this is a situation where you’ve got some talented players here at this level that are going to be in the future of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and you want to try to keep them happy and sometimes things get turned around a little bit. Guys get frustrated . . . There are 24 guys on this team and each one of them has a different personality. You have to be able to adjust and interact with each other. It’s tough at times, but this is like a family and I hope that we can do that for the rest of the year. We need to calm this thing down and get ourselves focused on playing baseball, getting our prospects to the major leagues.”

Lesson Learned?

As for Young, while he did express remorse for his actions and was adamant about putting the incident behind him, he came across as easily agitated throughout his meeting with the media.

When a television reporter approached him as the conference started, reaching out to place a mic on Young’s chest, he told the reporter not to touch him. Later, in the middle of an answer to another reporter, Young snapped at a female reporter to stop touching his leg.

When he was asked if he spent any time going to anger management classes during his suspension, Young said no, that he had his own support group and he spent time with them. Another reporter pressed him, asking him who was in his support group and Young replied, “My own support group that I need to know, not you.”

Young’s comfort level throughout the conference was obviously compromised and he wasted no time lashing out against the media, right after saying how accustomed he’d become to doing interviews.

“It’s a lot easier to deal with the media now. You guys already got the worst on me, so it makes it a lot easier to deal with you . . . I’m just out here making sure I make the right judgements. We’re all role models for everybody, so you’ve got to do the best you can to keep a positive image. I messed up, so now I have to try to regain that image, keep my nose clean and play baseball and play hard.

“You guys have no clue what Barry Bonds is going through. LeBron James . . . You got Shaq dealing with stuff just to win a championship . . . unless you guys put on the uniform and get to a very competitive level, you guys will never understand what athletes and entertainers go through on an everyday basis.”

Walk The Line

Young spent time doing community service during the suspension dividing his work between the Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League and the Miracle League of Gulf Beaches. The Miracle League is part of a national organization, which provides the opportunity for mentally and physically handicapped children to play baseball. He also made a donation to the home plate umpire’s little league for an undisclosed amount.

“It was a good opportunity to help out others,” Young said. “I went out and helped kids and adults that don’t really get a chance to play. They got more out of it than I ever thought they would, so that’s the least I got out of it.”

Even if losing 50 games this season did little to adjust Young’s attitude toward others (and the media in particular), he seems more focused than ever to do what he does best–play the game at a high level.

And while it seems the Devil Rays would like the incidents currently surrounding Upton and Dukes to just blow over eventually; Young, his surly attitude and the national image he instantaneously built on a night in Rhode Island two months ago are likely to stick around for a while. And he isn’t doing much to turn that rep around, nor does he seemed overly concerned about it.

“You have to just go on and live your life. I just want to come out here and just play baseball and have fun and just move on with it. You can judge me how you want to judge me, but I’m going to come out here and live my own life.

“(Fans) can do what they want. They can accept me back or have their fun with me. It doesn’t really matter. I’m here to play baseball.”