Whatever Happened to Andy Yount?

   It's the same every year in baseball. You can count on the state of Texas to have some high school pitchers that are regarded as absolute studs. It certainly was the case in 1995. The first high school pitcher taken in the draft was from Texas- Kerry Wood from Grand Prairie High as the fourth player selected overall.

The next high school hurler chosen was- you guessed it- from Texas- righthander Andy Yount from Kingwood High, chosen 15th overall by the Red Sox.

   You know what's happened to Wood. As for Yount, Boston signed him for a contract close to  $one million and he was promptly anointed one of the best prospects in their system. "That," says Yount now with something of a rueful smile, "was a long time ago."

   As he speaks, he's sitting in the bleachers wearing a Dodger uniform watching an extended spring game against the Cardinals on a back field at Dodgertown. For sure, time certainly has passed since those early glory days. So what happened? someone asked. Was it arm trouble?

  No, actually it was an injury to the middle finger on his pitching hand, one that became so severely infected that it required nine operations to repair. Oh, he tried to pitch but he never could grip a ball properly or, as a result, throw with any verve.

  Along the way, the Red Sox decided he'd never come back to form so released him. He then signed with the Tigers but, "It was too soon. My finger still hadn't healed properly so I couldn't pitch."  He could, however, swing a bat with some authority so the Tigers made him an outfielder.

   By now the century had turned. After the 2002 season, they told him they thought he'd never hit enough to be a big league outfielder so again he was released. This time it was back home to Texas where he became a fireman.

  Never, though, to give up his desire to play ball. And when his finger seemed sufficiently healed in 2006, he tried out for the Reds. They liked what they saw, or said they did, and promised him a chance this spring. Somehow that never materialized but, in the meantime, he'd caught the Dodgers' attention. They signed him.

  Now, here he is is, giving it another try. His fast ball sits in the 88-92 range, topping out at 93. His curve is coming back; so is his changeup. His mechanics are, quite naturally, something that, "I work on every day with Craig Bjornson and Casey Deskins," he says of the pitching coaches in the camp.

  "Mostly what I need are innings. I've had some good bullpens but you know that's not the same of being out there facing hitters. That's different and I need to get out there and do it a lot."

  The next day he got his chance, again against the Cards. It was only for an inning but his pitches were moving well. Maybe, too well as he hit two batters, although the second time, it was ruled that it had glanced off the bat first and was, thus, a foul. 

  There were no hits, though and he generally looked in charge. Still, he's 30 now so he'll have to show that he can get outs at a much higher level than this to have any chance. "I think by the time extended ends in June, I'll be ready," he asserts.

    He looked good enough to keep around for further inspection in any case. though. The eyes of Texas may have turned away from Yount a long time ago but he's out there in the sunshine once more hoping that those clouds have passed at last. He's a man who deserves some good fortune, finally. Both he and the Dodgers hope that time has come. 

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