Tri-City Dust Devils

MadFriars' Interview: G.K. Young

PASCO, Wash. –This past year G.K. Young, 21, was part of the ultimate underdog story as the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (it’s a french rooster and pronounced shant-e-clears) beat the University of Arizona 4-3 in the third and deciding game of the College World Series this year. Young had one of the deciding blows with a two-run home run to put the Chanticleers over the top in the championship game.

At Coastal Carolina, which is located in Young’s  hometown of Conway, South Carolina, he hit  .337/.391/.571 with 18 home runs and 72 RBI in his junior year, seeing time mostly as a designated hitter. In high school he was a catcher but at Coastal Carolina the coach wanted him to focus solely on hitting.

The Padres selected  him in the 31st round of this year’s draft and are transitioning him into a full-time first baseman after three years as a designated hitter.  The left-handed hitting Young at six feet, and 225 lbs. is a classic power hitter with an ability to drive the ball to all fields 

After a hot start he has slowed down, but is still one of the better power prospects in the lower levels of the Padres’ organization. Although his overall slash line sits at .222/.315/310 with runner on base he is hitting .315/.413/.444.  While numbers and performances are always important, it’s also important to not read too much into statistics of college players coming off a long season in their first year of pro ball.

We caught up with G.K. (George King Young II, but everyone calls him “GeeKay”) before a recent game to reflect on winning the College World Series, pro ball and his 6’9” uncle, one of the members of his family that taught him how to hit.

You won the College World Series this year.  How long did it take you to come down from that?

G.K. Young:  I still wake up and think about it every day because it means so much to me and my teammates.   Everyone doubted us because we are such a small school so that is why it was so important to us.  It is something that will be with me my whole life.

As you said, to do it at such a small school it has to feel even better than if you did it at a school like LSU or Auburn.

G.K. Young:  That is my point, when you were the underdogs the whole time it really makes it special.  You kind of expect some of those big schools to win it and when we did it I think it showed a lot of heart.

Your numbers went up every year in college.  Was it case you got better physically or mentally or a combination of both?

G.K. Young:  I became a lot stronger mentally and continued to grow up. I learned who I was as a player and took what I was taught onto the field.  I think I was very blessed to progress that way I did.

Let’s talk about what type of player that you are. How would you describe what type of player that you are?

G.K. Young:  I am a power hitter.  Besides that I like to think of myself as a hitter; I’m going to get on base.  I will have the occasional walk here and there.  In college I was one hit away from breaking our college single-season hit record.  I tied it with 99. I’m not real fast, but I do work hard at what I do.

Was part of learning as a power hitter not only what balls you can hit, but which ones you can drive?

G.K. Young:  As you get older a power hitter has to really get better at pitch selection.  You have to mentally prepare yourself to lay off certain pitches to get into those hitters counts so you can get what you need.

You had such a great college experience.  Was there any thought about coming back for a senior year?

G.K. Young:  I did think about going back because I am from that community but this has also been my dream my whole life; to play in the major leagues.  I was able to finish what I set out to do in college, win a national championship, so that made leaving a whole lot easier. 

I hope to be able to make it one day.  Just have to keep working hard.

You played first base the whole time in college and here.  Do you play any other positions?

G.K. Young: No mainly just first base.  I think I could play the outfield if I worked at it, but I like playing first base and DH every now and then.  I do think that I am improving defensively over at first because it has been awhile since I played the field.

How did you get to be a left-handed hitter?

G.K. Young:   My whole family is right-handed and my uncle who is a really big man – 6’9” and let’s just says he is not a stick - is like me, hits left-handed and throws right.  I got that from him, the man can hit a softball further than any human that I have ever seen.

My dad and my grandad have been my hitting coaches sine I was little, so I’ve always been very thankful for all the help that they have given me.  Right now I couldn’t hit water if I fell out of a boat right-handed, hitting left-handed is the natural way for me. 

If anyone would have a built in excuse to having a slow start it would be you; but you got off to a really good start.  Did you purposefully tell yourself that what I accomplished was great, but this is something new?

G.K. Young:  Somewhat, and I did start jumping on the ball early. However at any level of baseball that I am playing I don’t put any pressure on myself to perform.  The day that God tells me I’m done playing, then I will find something else to do. I was really fortunate to get a hit in my first professional at-bat, but you also can’t play the game when you are not relaxed. Until then I’m not going to play scared or nervous and I feel that has helped me perform my whole life.  

When the day comes that I’m done, I’m done. But I also need to know that I played as hard as I could every time I stepped on the field.

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