Student in Need of Career Counseling Will 6'11" Chris Young sign a baseball contract or stay at Princeton to play two sports?

May 14, 2000

Eight major league baseball scouts buzzed in the shade behind
the backstop of Princeton's Clarke Field, where the Tigers were
playing Penn on April 24. At the top of each inning the scouts,
who worked for teams ranging from the Florida Marlins to the
Seattle Mariners, would stop talking, amble up to the fence and
aim their radar guns in the direction of the mound, whence Chris
Young, a 6'11", 255-pound Princeton sophomore, was mowing down
the Quakers. During the bottom half of the inning they bent
their heads together to compare notes: good size, hits the
corners, tops out around 90 mph, full command of fastball,
changeup, slider. "He throws strikes, moves the ball well, and
with his build, velocity will come," said Mariners scout Tom
McNamara of the righthanded Young, whose 1.05 earned run average
through Sunday, when Princeton clinched a spot in the NCAA
playoffs, was the lowest among Division I pitchers with at least
40 innings pitched. "But draft order and signing bonuses aside,
is this kid willing to give up two more years at this school to
concentrate on baseball?"

Asking himself that same question was another spectator: Bill
Carmody, coach of the Tigers' basketball team, of which Young is
the co-captain. Carmody's attention was divided between the
scouts, who were there to decide where they might pick Young
(who will become a baseball-draft-eligible 21 years old later
this month) in June, and his starting center, who was pitching
aggravatingly well. "Chris might have some big decisions to
make," said Carmody. "In basketball, too, he has all of the
tools--a great feel for the game, a long-range shot, the ability
to drive to the basket. There is no question he has a future in
the NBA." Ryan Blake, the NBA's assistant director of scouting,
believes that Young is a pro prospect. "There aren't too many
big guys who can pass the ball and make the three-pointer," he
says. "He definitely needs a couple more years of college
basketball, but he has tremendous potential."

In this era of sports specialization, in which talented
eight-year-olds are encouraged to streamline their athletic
portfolios, Young's dilemma is rare. A two-sport All-Stater at
Dallas's Highland Park High, Young had the option of playing
basketball or baseball on an athletic scholarship at Oklahoma,
Purdue, Texas or Vanderbilt. Instead he chose Princeton, where,
for at least another few years, he would not have to decide
between his two loves. Playing for an Ivy League school meant
sacrificing scholarship dollars and paying the entire
$35,000-a-year tab at Princeton, but Chris's parents, Charles, a
real estate executive who was an offensive tackle at Texas
Christian, and Lillie, a banking executive and former high
school cheerleader who attended Ohio Wesleyan, supported the
decision. "At a northern school, baseball season doesn't overlap
so much with basketball, and there's nothing wrong with having a
Princeton degree under your belt," says Chris. "Plus, there
seemed to be a lot of cooperation between [baseball coach Scott]
Bradley and Coach Carmody."

Bradley, who had familiarized himself with oversized pitchers
when he caught Randy Johnson for three seasons during his
nine-year career in the majors, discovered Young after Young's
junior year in high school. Not long thereafter, Bradley began
reading Internet reports about Young's scoring 20 points or more
a game for the Highland Park basketball team. As soon as Young
let on that he was interested in playing both sports in college,
Bradley sprinted in the direction of the basketball office,
where he ran into assistant coach John Thompson III. "What are
you looking for in the 1998 season?" Bradley asked.

"Size. We're getting pushed around," replied Thompson. Bradley
grinned. "How's 6'11"?"

So far the joint-custody agreement has worked out. As a freshman
Young became the first Ivy League male to be named rookie of the
year in two sports. He exceeded Carmody's expectations by setting
school freshman records of 387 points and 160 rebounds, and he
won over Bradley by asking to throw to him a couple of times a
week after basketball practice. "The busier I am, the easier it
is to keep up with my studies," says Young, who has about a 3.0
GPA as a politics major.

Though Young acknowledges that throwing in a gym can't duplicate
pitching to the cleanup hitter when the game is on the line,
these off-season exercises allow him to work his arm and unwind
from the daily rigors of basketball. "I look forward to the
transition from one sport to the other," says Young, who at the
end of the hoops season simply moves the contents of his Jadwin
Gym locker down the hall to the baseball changing room.
"Basketball is so intense that pitching is kind of a relief."

Which is not to say that Young doesn't relish game-time
intensity: When the last seconds are ticking away on the shot
clock, he says, "I want the ball in my hands." Similarly, his
favorite part of pitching is being involved in every play. "When
you're on the mound," says Young, his usually breezy tone taking
on a dramatic air, "the team's success rests on you."

Young closed his freshman spring with a 4-1 record and a 2.38
ERA. After a sluggish start to his sophomore basketball season,
he ended up leading the Tigers in scoring, with 13.8 points a
game, and setting a school record for blocked shots (90).
Three-and-a-half weeks after he ended the season with a double
double in Princeton's first-round NIT loss to Penn State, Young
loped onto Yale Field for his second start of 2000 and struck
out 10 Elis in a seven-inning complete game. In the outing
against Penn, another seven-inning affair, he again struck out
10, for the third time in his career. He's on track to become
Princeton's No. 2 career basketball scorer, after Bill Bradley,
and its most dominant pitcher ever.

Stats and stature aside, Scott Bradley and Carmody both say that
Young's best asset is his temperament. "Chris never gets
flustered," says Bradley. "He's a fierce competitor, but you
would never know that from watching." Carmody agrees: "He is a
dilettante about nothing in his life."

After his final stats against Penn--those 10 K's, two walks, three
hits and one unearned run for his third win of the season--were
tallied, Young stuck around for questions, a hangdog expression
revealing his feeling that he hadn't pitched his best. A reporter
asked the question on everyone's mind. "It depends on where I go
in the draft and stuff like that," said Young. "I'll play it by
ear, but there's nothing wrong with coming back here [next
year]."

It was a diplomatic answer. As Young pursues his divergent
sports passions, those politics courses should serve him well.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO COLOR PHOTO: BEVERLY SCHAEFER

"In basketball, too, he has all the tools," says Carmody. "No
doubt he has a future in the NBA."

"He throws strikes, moves the ball, and with his build, velocity
will come."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)