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Published: Wednesday, 7/12/2006

Young is game's oldest star

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Young Young
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Ernie Young is the oldest Triple-A All-Star on the International League squad by five years. He tops anyone on the Pacific Coast League team by two years.

"The coaching staff's the only people older than Ernie," IL manager Larry Parrish said.

A designated hitter who turned 37 years old on Saturday, Young was able to hide his birthday from his Charlotte Knights teammates.

"I snuck it by all the guys on the team - I didn't want to catch any ribbing," he said.

But what he has meant to the Knights, who have the best record in the IL, as well as minor league baseball, is in plain sight.

"He helps us with the mental part of going into games, especially with young guys, how to handle yourself," Knights third baseman Josh Fields, 23, said. "He's very respected in baseball. We've enjoyed having him.

"Just being around him, his attitude toward the game, you learn to respect it a lot more."

Young, 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, hit .296 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs in the first half. Knights manager Razor Shines looks to him to set an example for the younger players, and he gladly takes on that role, he said.

"I would hope they would look at my work ethic and how I approach hitting," Young said. "I'm always talking to some of our guys about hitting and other things. They can learn from me, and just as much I can learn from them."

On June 12 Young hit his 300th career minor league home run. It's the most among active minor leaguers in the United States.

"It's definitely a sign of longevity, just going out there and being consistent throughout my minor league career," Young said.

Said Parrish: "He's been a good hitter at this level for a long time."

With a 58-31 record, Charlotte is 16 1/2 games ahead of Durham at the All-Star break. That's the major reason six Knights are representing the team at the game, which is tonight at Fifth Third Field.

"That just goes to show you the kind of team we have," Young said. "Josh is up there in RBIs, but we have several guys up there. There's not one person that's carrying our team, which shows you we have a team."

Young, who played for the Mud Hens in 2003, was elected into the ProMedica Health System All-Star Game from votes by fans, IL managers and media. He received the second-most fan votes. It's the third consecutive year he's played in the event.

"It's definitely an honor," Young said. "I didn't know if I wanted to be here or not, just because being an older player, you need those three days to relax.

"But at age 37, I don't know how many more All-Star Games I'm going to play in, so you know what, I'm going to play."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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