DALLAS - Dmitri Young strolls through the Hilton Anatole lobby at the Winter Meetings, stopping to greet old baseball friends. An effervescent grin has replaced the frustrated scowl that Young wore as his major league career wore down, and he's a shade of his former self, having pared his more than 300-lb. frame down to a svelte 230 lbs.
"Cap and gown," he cracks wise when asked when the last time he was at this weight.
The 38-year-old Young last played in 2008 for the Nationals, when weight and health issues associated with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes ruined an impressive comeback story that started on the minor league fields in Viera, Fla. Before 2007 spring training, former Nats general manager Jim Bowden offered him a shot to prove he loved the game enough to work his way back alongside teeangers trying to make their mark..
Now Young wants to make another comeback, if a major league team will take a chance on a guy who's gotten more opportunities than most.
"People in their 20s, they're trying to figure out who they are. People in their 30s, they start to figure out," he said. "When they get to my age, they figure things out, and the one thing I figured out was how to get my health in order. That's, to me, been hindering me every since I got the diabetes. All the work I put in, it talks about the seriousness of what Type 2 diabetes is. My whole purpose was to get off the (insulin) needle."
Young played in a couple of alumni games this offseason and retired teammates were stunned at how good he looked.
"I talked to some players and there were like, 'Dude, you look too good to hang 'em up. You got to give it another shot. You already had a nice career, but you don't want to have regrets,' " he said.
He went to Venezuela, where he played winter league ball for Caribes de AnzoÃ¡tegui in Puerto la Cruz. Young manned first base and didn't hit much - .167 (11-for-66) with no homers and three RBIs in 20 games - but he proved to himself that a comeback wasn't such a farfetched notion. He'd be willing to go to Japan, but hopes he won't need to go halfway around the world to prove he's serious.
His walks through the lobby are part reconnection and part personal showcase. No one's offered a contract, though. Not yet.
"Not in the sense of 'Here's a contract, sign it.' But the same conversation that we're having about the weight loss, going and playing in Venezuela, how you're feeling, is the diabetes under control - things of that nature," Young explained.
In other words, it's baby steps for a guy familiar with starting over, someone who still feels he has something to offer.
"People should be willing to give me a chance based on my past track record and evolution," he said. "Was I an angel when I was a player? Not really. Have I reformed? Yes. That's the one thing I know I can help out teams with their younger players - don't make the same mistakes I did. When you're in the big leagues, you're there for a reason."