Dmitri's Summer Away From Baseball
Right now at Land Shark Stadium, as the Nats take batting practice, a former all-star is warming up along the third base line. He's wearing baggy blue jeans and a gray T-shirt. He's practicing a full wind-up -- a rocking rear-back-and-fire delivery... only he's not firing. He's throwing to a 12-year-old named Owen, his oldest son. The former all-star is Dmitri Young. Sometimes, it's easy to forget what he once meant to this franchise. Or that he's still on the Nats' 40-man roster, in the final month of a contract that's paying him $5 million this year.
This is the second day in a row DY has been hanging around the team. Assuredly, the Nats will soon be -- officially -- his ex-team. A formal retirement might not be far away, though Dmitri stopped short of saying it would happen.
"Right now I'm not even thinking about it," he said of playing next year. "I'm just here. Right now, just [recover] and clear my head of everything. Then in the offseason we'll see."
When I first started talking to Dmitri on Friday, he was jovial and relaxed. He spoke about his summer away from baseball, some QT with the family (he's reconciled with his wife), and -- get ready for this -- bike-riding. In the South Florida heat.
"Oh yeah?" I asked. "Is that something new?"
"No, I used to do it back in the old days," Dmitri said. "Back when this guy..." -- and at this moment, Dmitri pointed across the clubhouse to Stephen Strasburg...
His voice trailed off.
"Finish the sentence," I said.
"Back when this guy was pre-puberty," Dmitri said laughing.
Fact is, Dmitri has been doing a lot of things that he hasn't tried in a long time.
"It's just a summer off," he said. "I haven't had one of these since 1990. Every year -- I've played professional ball since '91 -- every summer has been baseball, baseball, baseball, baseball, baseball. And for the normal fan, it's like, 'Why would you want time off? You're playing a game.' But that's all I do. I don't get to travel with the family and take vacations. None of us get to do that during the season. We go on vacations during the winter, and there aren't too many hot places.
"It's been real cool," he continued. "I just came back from Toronto. I went to watch my brother [Delwyn] play. I did it like a fan would. Instead of calling the clubhouse guy -- 'Come pick me up!' -- and do all that stuff like a baseball player, I was like, You know, I'm gonna do it like a true fan would. Took a cab over there. Went to the ticket counter. Walked in, walked around the stadium. Sat down. And watched a major league ballgame."
Dmitri said he'd continue to work on his fitness and conditioning, but more to get in shape for life -- "whether I play baseball or not."
I asked him if he'd feel any regret about the end of his career if he never played again.
"No," he said. "Because I don't believe in dwelling on anything and having any regrets. That would lead to a sour rest of my life."
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