Exclusive Dmitri Young Interview: MLB Great and the Man Known as “Da Meat Hook” Talking Baseball
Sunday July 1st, 2012
Robert Whitmer (Baseball Writer):
There are many firsts that you have in your life. Your first date, your first kiss, your first…. Yeah. This was my first live interview. I had the honor of interviewing the former MLB all-star Dmitri “Da Meat Hook” Young. It was challenging, but yet when it was over, I had an accomplished feeling and a greater appreciation for the man who is Dmitri Young.
This is a man who needs no introduction in baseball circles. If you know and love baseball, then you know “Da Meat Hook”. A 1st round pick of the Cardinals (4th overall) in 1991, Dmitri made his MLB debut in 1996. He played 13 seasons for 4 different clubs (St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit and Washington). Dmitri had many outstanding seasons, with his finest coming in Detroit as part of the 2003 season. Dmitri finished that year with a career high 29 home runs, to go along with 85 RBIs, 78 runs, .297 AVG and .909 OPS. He was named an All-Star that season, as well as his 2nd last year (2007- Nationals). In 2007, Dmitri was also named the NL Comeback Player of the Year. He was versatile, playing mainly first and the outfield, with a little bit of third base as well. His calling card was his bat and ability to get base hits. A career .292 hitter, Dmitri has 1389 career hits. A legend and baseball warrior, Dmitri was a player that any team would have loved to have on their side when a game was on the line.
Now in his post-MLB career, I got to spend some time talking baseball recently with Da Meat Hook. About his start in the game, from the draft day experience, his first MLB at-bat, and all the way to his current baseball projects. You know that smiling face you saw in the ballpark and on tv? That’s the same Dmitri Young I spoke to. Down to earth and loving life, Dmitri is a man who takes nothing for granted and has a love affair with the game of baseball to this day. If only we had more Dmitri Youngs in today’s game. So without further ado, here is the transcript from the interview: (you can listen to the audio version by clicking on the Dmitri Young Interview)
RW: This is Robert Whitmer from MLB REPORTS dot com, and I am on here with Dmitri Young. How are you today sir?
Dmitri: I am doing absolutely fantastic. How about yourself?
RW: I am doing great. I watched you as a player and I appreciated how you played the game. I always thought that as you were playing the game you were playing with a passion and intensity that I didn’t see from other players. Who would you say growing up as a child got you into baseball and at what point did you realize that you could make it a career for yourself?
Dmitri: That is a very easy question to answer. That is my dad Larry Young. He saw something in me that I didn’t know existed. Baseball is what I had always played, and once he saw that I took hitting up like most people pick up eating. You know, very natural for me. I was always a taller and bigger kid than everyone else so I always played with the older kids. When I went out there and played, I had to show that I belonged up there with everybody else cause I was always the youngest player out there by at least 4 or 5 years. I always hustled on and off the field. I always played with a “uuuggghhhh” intensity. I would smile and stuff but I was there to play a game. I wasn’t there for a popularity contest, I was there to win. When I was out there on the field, there was no dogging it or jogging on the field. I mean it happens, but, I didn’t do that much because you never know who’s up there watching you play for the first time and you know first impressions are often lasting impressions so I tried hard to hustle down the line.
RW: Who would you say that you idolized growing up?
Dmitri: For me it was Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Dale Murphy. Those were my 3 favorite players. I’m sort of dating my age, I’m 38. I loved all the players and they were all top-notch players to me but that’s who I liked. Despite the problems that Dwight and Darryl had, I never looked at anyone’s personal background or judged them based on religion, color or anything. I liked ball players for what they bring to the table. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be up there at an early age but I didn’t get there till 22.
RW: We just finished the MLB draft, What did it feel like for you to get that phone call or did you already know that it was something that was going to happen so it was expected?
Dmitri: I knew I was going in the first round. I knew I was a top-10 pick. I was rated, at one time, the number 1 player in the nation then bumped down to number 2 and I worked out with the San Diego Padres (8th pick that year), Cardinals (4th pick), Twins and the Braves. I had a great workout with the Padres and thought I was going to be a Padre. Unlike this year with the draft on TV, when I got drafted it was like you said, a phone call. The call didn’t even come to my house. It went to my High School.
RW: Were you there at school that day?
Dmitri: No I was at home with my parents and the news people, a couple of friends and high school called me. When they called me, I thought they were calling me cause I was playing hooky but know they said that the Cardinals called and you’re a Cardinal. I heard from the school first, and then the Cardinals called (the house) a minute later. It was almost like a surprise being spoiled, then having to re-create the surprise.
RW: Were you also getting recruited by colleges to play for them or did they not bother since you were such a high prospect?
Dmitri: I had a full ride to the University of Miami.
RW: Did it even cross your mind to skip the majors and go to a year or two of college?
Dmitri: If stuff didn’t work out in the draft, I still had the offer to go to school. The freshman that had the spot on the ’92 Olympic team by the name of Nomar Garciaparra, that was my spot had I gone to school.
RW: You were called up in 1996? How nervous were you in your first MLB at-bat?
Dmitri: Actually, I had the nervousness taken out of me by Willie McGee. At that time, the Cardinals were in the pennant race and I didn’t play the first game. Willie McGee was like “hey young blood, it’s ok for you to be nervous today. Tomorrow when you go in there, I want you to play the way that you played that got you up here.” He was basically saying, go play your game. People try to come up and say “yay, I’m going to hit home runs!” That’s not why the Cardinals called me up. They called me up for what I was doing in the minors and they wanted me to keep doing what I was doing. My first at-bat against Al Leiter, and he’s got a cutter. A cutter is a cutter till you get to the big leagues. It was a 2-0 count. He throws the cutter out and it looked like a regular fastball down the middle and I’m thinking that I’m going to hit the nothing out of this ball. That ball cut and nearly broke my back in two and it was a weak pop-up to short. After I got the embarrassment out-of-the-way, the next at-bat I caught up to the cutter and got a base hit.
RW: How did it feel to get your first hit on your second at-bat?
Dmitri: IT HURT! He jammed me. It hurts getting a hit, but it hurts a little more to get jammed. I felt it in my elbows.
RW: I bet it felt good when you hit your first major league home run. Walk me through that.
Dmitri: Third game of the 1997 season. I didn’t get one in ’96 and ’97 I didn’t get the start the first two games. Carlos Perez got the start. When he struck people out he did a little dance and it bugged me. I came up with two runners on and I had an 0-2 count and he threw his curveball or whatever and *crack* it went 380 feet over the right field fence. Getting the first home run out-of-the-way is always good, but I had to wait an entire off-season and spring training. When you hit the first home run, it feels great it feels real good especially cause there was nobody in the stands and you got to retrieve the ball.
RW: If there was one pitcher in your career that, stepping into that box you knew you had their number, who would that be?
Dmitri: That’s a tie between Jake Westbrook and Jason Jennings. I used to beat the stink out of Westbrook when he was with the Indians. It seemed like every time he was pitching and every time I was hitting there were always guys on and I always got the better of him.
RW: On the flip side, who was the pitcher that, if you could have, you would have faked sick to get out of the batters box against?
Dmitri: That’s a three-way tie between Billy Wagner, I hate him. Mariano Rivera, I couldn’t hit off of him on either side. I tried both sides of the plate against Rivera and the best I did on both sides were 1-2-3 double plays with the bases loaded. The third was David Riske. He through the hardest ball, but it had a little rise to it. I was 0-13 with 11k’s and two pop-ups to the catcher.
RW: Two of those three are closers. Is there a difference on how you would approach a closer compared to a starter, long reliever, or middle reliever?
Dmitri: Riske was a situational guy. There were times that I would hope Alan Trammel would get me a pinch hitter. One time I thought “I’m 0-10 with 9k’s at this point” and Eric Wedge is walking to the mound and he’s looking right at me smiling and he gives the sign for Riske and I just groan. It’s like a roller coaster ride when you go all the way to the top and right before you go down you get the “whoop” feeling. Riske was the worst out of the 3.
RW: If you could give one piece of advice to these players that just got drafted, what would it be?
Dmitri: Remember why you’re there. You got drafted to play baseball. You can go out and have fun, but remember why you’re there. Just like Bryce Harper did. He’s there to play baseball and that’s what he is doing. Sometimes players get caught up in having fun but remember that you’re in the minors trying to get to the major leagues. Don’t worry about the guy in front or in back of you. They are on their own time-table. Live your life so you’re not causing problems for yourself in the future.
RW: In your post baseball life you have a foundation, who or what does that foundation help?
Dmitri: it’s a non-profit foundation to assist kids in Ventura County California where I grew up. It serves as a bridge between opportunity and the kids that have the talent that don’t play can pay. There are a lot of kids out here that have loads of talent but their parents aren’t exactly the richest people on the planet. Usually kids in this situation end up going to something else or leaving the sport all together. I operate a camp here in Ventura County for kids to come and play and learn the game. The foundation is for the kids that are unable to pay for this camp. (To donate and learn more information on how you can assist the kids of Ventura County California stay involved in baseball visit www.dameathook.com).
RW: I read that you were a big baseball card collector. How did you get into that?
Dmitri: I started collecting as a child, back when you didn’t have to sell off your house to buy a pack of cards. As I played I collected rookie cards from players around the league. I actually sold off my collection to start the foundation and my baseball camp.
RW: Lastly, if you were exiled to a deserted island and could only take three things with you, what three things would you take?
Dmitri: Wow, wow that’s a good one. I wouldn’t need to have sushi, I could fish for that. I guess HD TV with DirecTV. Item number two would be a computer with internet. Item number 3 would be, oh man, I guess my wheatgrass. I’m a big wheatgrass lover. As funny as it sounds, wheatgrass has helped me get healthy. I’m at 220. I haven’t been that low since high school.
RW: There you go readers. I hope you enjoyed the interview. A big thank you to Dmitri Young for joining us today. To learn more about Dmitri’s foundation, please be sure to click onto his site (dameathook.com) If you want to hear the interview in its entirety you can find the audio “here: Dmitri Young Interview.”
***Today’s feature was prepared by Robert Whitmer, MLB reports Baseball Writer and edited by Jonathan Hacohen. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Robert on Twitter (@rwhitmer)***
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Posted on July 1, 2012, in Interviews with MLB Stars and tagged baseball, bryce harper, da meat hook, Dale Murphy, darryl strawberry, detroit tigers, dmitri young, Dwight Gooden, eric wedge, mlb, washington nationals. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.