Chavez Young made his Nat Bailey Stadium debut during the 2017 playoffs.
Vancouver Canadians outfielder Chavez Young is the latest player to take his turn at-bat in the latest instalment of C’s Chat.
Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 39th round of the 2016 draft out of Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici, Georgia, the 6-foot-2 Young decided to turn pro after the Jays gave him a $200,000 signing bonus. He overcame a tough start in the Gulf Coast League by hitting .274/.346/.438 in 21 games in which he had eight doubles, two triples and six stolen bases in seven attempts.
The 20 year-old switch-hitter from Freeport, Bahamas continued to make strides in his second professional season which saw him start and end the year in Vancouver. In between, he was the leadoff hitter for the Appalachian League-leading Bluefield Blue Jays in which he batted .282/.332/.440, scored 52 runs and led the league with seven triples. He batted .444 with a home run in the playoffs and threw out a runner at home from center field but it wasn’t enough as Pulaski edged out Bluefield two games to one in the league semi-final.
Young’s season wasn’t over yet as he was flown out west just in time to join the C’s for their playoff run. He contributed with a number of diving catches in right field and belted a home run in Game 1 of the Northwest League final against the Eugene Emeralds. He played a key role in starting a two-run rally in Game 3 and survived an encounter with the right field wall in foul territory to record the penultimate out of Game 4. His ultimate reward was getting to join the on-field celebration as a key contributor to the C’s fourth Northwest League championship.
I caught up with Chavez (pronounced ‘shah-VEZ’) on the phone in Tampa, Florida recently to see how his off-season was going.
“This is my second off-season so I’m kind of experienced and I know what I should be working on going into my second full season. My first off-season, it was just like a test drive to see how to prepare next year. Last year was my first off-season. This year, I was prepared like knowing when to throw, when to get back on the field and know when to start hitting, to give my body more rest and when to start hitting the gym again.
I started hitting the gym again in November when I reported for (Baseball) Strength Camp and that’s when I started getting in the gym but it was like off the field, not hitting, not fielding or throwing.
The main thing I really wanted to work on this year was my core, to have a strong core, for my abdomen to be strong. That was the one thing I was really trying to attack this off-season.”
In December, that’s when I started hitting. Everyday when I had a chance when Mother Nature gave the chance on the field, I would hit.
I’ve been hitting with Bo Bichette, his father (Dante Bichette) and Dante Bichette Jr. in St. Pete (St. Petersburg) so it was great working with one of the greatest hitters in baseball. Just getting mentally locked in, coming in with a routine every day. That’s what he would teach you, what is your plan when you’re going to hit not just in the cage but what you want to work on, what you want to get better on, what you visualize yourself doing in the game. That was the main thing he was teaching me. Not just going in the cage just to hit but going in with a purpose and a routine.”
That was the plus-plus thing that ever happened to me in the off-season like that. That was a great experience hitting alongside with Bo and his dad.”
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— Chavez Young (@chavezyoung242) January 30, 2018
On taking part in the first-ever Don’t Blink – Home Run Derby In Paradise in the Bahamas.
“It was a mind-blowing thing. It was like going back to the World Series, playing as a kid and having fun. It was just like fun baseball again, playing with your younger friends and all those who were drafted because we normally can’t see each other like how we used to because we’re all playing professionally.
To have that experience, to play in front of your home crowd, hitting balls in front of your own crowd. When you hit a home run, the crowd goes crazy. The vibe there was so amazing. I was really happy to participate in that and I really can’t wait for (next) January 5th. Just to start off the year, that was really great.
We had Bo Bichette down from the Blue Jays, we had Nick Gordon down from the Minnesota Twins. Just to bring a little home flavour back to the Bahamas. When we were playing on our own, we always had Nationals (Baseball National Tournament in the Bahamas) in June but since now since we play throughout the summer, we can’t participate in that event so that’s why we bring back the home run derby so all of us can come home and entertain. It’s entertainment for our people back home so that was a great experience.”
On representing Great Britain—the homeland of his parents—at the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifier.
“Oh my goodness, that experience right there. When I say it was like playing in the World Series, it was the same feeling. We had an MLB-type of season, how they treat us, stay in great hotels, coming to the field and signing autographs. Everything that you think a kid could dream of, that was like me basically.
Some of the guys from the team that I was watching from the Bahamas-who were older than me-but when I was growing up watching them play, they were always like my role models. Albert Cartwright, Champ Stuart and Antoan Richardson, I always used to watch them play. I was never the same age so I could never play with them but when I was in Great Britain, I was practicing in center field with Champ Stuart. Just to be with him on the field, teaching me how to go about his routine in the outfield and stuff like that.
Not just from the tournament standpoint but from an experience standpoint, I learned a lot from those guys. It was a great experience playing for Great Britain at the World Baseball Classic.”
On his baseball beginnings.
“We had like what we called a ’13-15’ big field where the older guys play on. The field was so big because we didn’t have (many) fields in the Bahamas. We had to play t-ball games in the right field corner. My coach, Miss Higgs, she used to coach me in primary school. I would play everything, I used to run track but she brought me out and I just started playing. I used to play shortstop. You couldn’t say it was my position, I was just in the middle of the field. Every time a ball was hit to me, I would tag a base and try to run the next base. (Laughs) I started like that. Just playing ball, having fun and every time I hit the ball, I would try to get a home run. I started in t-ball when I was five or six years old.”
On playing high school ball in Georgia.
“I went in bowl full of fish, a lot of gold fishes just like me. There were other good players like me too so that pushed me to get a starting position on the varsity team. Just the environment around me, it pushed me. Everybody wanted to work hard, everybody wanted to get a college offer. The school pushed me on my work ethic and there were good coaches who had pushed me.to never settle and achieve a career. Faith Baptist Christian Academy was a great time for me going there.”
On who influenced him at Faith Baptist Christian Academy.
“When I first got there, there was a kid named Edgar Rivera. I always used to watch him go about his business and his work ethic.. He also used to drive me to the gym to push me.
I remember one time when he was on the field, he was walking down and he was telling me, ‘Bro, this is my last year here. You have two more years here, bro. For you to get to where you want to be, you got to block out friends, you got to block out family because sometimes they’re a distraction. You got to stay locked in. When I go, you got to keep up your routine, your working out and stuff like that. ‘
Edgar Rivera was always one of the biggest role models of my life. My senior year at Georgia Faith Baptist, he passed away in his freshman year.in junior college in Chicago. Everything I do, I always play for him. It was his dream. We go by calling him ‘Flindo’. He was always my big brother on the team, my big brother on the team. Everything I do on the field, he will always be there with me, even the batter’s box and center field. I’ll always remember him no matter what.”
Chavez Young batted .308 in five regular season contests with Vancouver.
On being drafted by the Blue Jays.
“It was an emotional roller-coaster, a really emotional roller-coaster going from day one to day three. Even though I got picked in the 39th (round), I was so grateful. I felt like I got picked in the first round. From the first time I moved to America, I always had that humbleness in me, like ‘Hey, you got to grateful for everything you do.’ Out of everybody in the world, they drafted you. I was grateful for that.
And when it came, when I was drafted, it was such a shocking thing even though I got drafted late. It was shocking, it was mind-blowing, I was happy that they picked me that the Blue Jays are giving me the opportunity to showcase my talent and it was just a great feeling.”
On other teams showing interest in him.
“To be honest, the Blue Jays were my first questionnaire from Mike Tidick, the area scout. He was on me from the fall of my senior year. The Padres were on me too but you never know, all the scouts say they liked me.
Mike Tidick, he was one me, even though I got picked 39th, he told me like, ‘Hey bro, I’m not going to go to sleep until we sign you so I’m just letting you know that now, bro. We’re going to sign you.’
That showed me right there that he sure was wiling to fight for me from day one. He was the first questionnaire, he was the first guy, the first scout I had even met.”
On how he found out about being drafted.
“I was at my coach’s game. The coach that started me in Ludowici, Georgia, I was watching his son play. I was charging my phone at the park. People had started calling me, ‘Hey man, your phone is blowing up. A lot of people are calling you and you got a lot of message and stuff.’ I was like, ‘Yep, that was for me!’ Even though the draft was going on, I didn’t want to pay attention to it.”
Norberto Obeso is credited for helping Chavez Young break out of his first professional slump in 2016.
On his first season in the Gulf Coast League.
“My first 20 at-bats was rough. I was like oh-for-20. I felt like, ‘Did I make the right decision?’ I had one of my teammates (Norberto Obeso), he talked to me. He was like, ‘You got a good swing, you got a nice swing! I feel like you’re in and out of the hitting zone too fast. I think you just got to stay through the hitting zone longer.’
After he told me that, it just like clicked. My first hit came and it was a double. Then after that, I went on a long hitting streak and I just finished out the season strong.”
Chavez Young made his Northwest League debut as a pinch-runner in Eugene June 15.
On opening the season with Vancouver.
“Coming from the GCL and coming from extended, you don’t have much fans. When I was going to Eugene, it was like ‘Wow! That’s a lot of fans!’ I hadn’t been to Vancouver yet. It feels so good playing in front of a lot of fans. I was so hyped about playing in front of fans like that. It was a lot of excitement. Kids want you to sign balls before the game, it was just mind-blowing.
And then when I went to Vancouver, it was like ‘Oh my goodness! I don’t want to leave!’ (Laughs) The fan base there and the vibe in Canada is crazy, it’s beautiful. It’s just beautiful there. The vibe there, the people are so generous.
I remember I went to Starbucks in Vancouver and I pull out American money and the people were like, ‘Why do you have American money?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know! You don’t use American money here?’ They say, “Where are you from?’ I say, ‘Bahamas’. They say, ‘Why are you here?’ I say, ‘I play for the Vancouver Canadians.’ And the people at Starbucks started to go crazy, like ‘Hey, can I have your autograph?’ I was so overwhelmed.”
On his early-season contributions to the C’s Opening Series victory in Eugene which included a three-run triple and a two-run double.
“It feels good to help out your teammates, your team. When you’re struggling and then you come through for the team. That feeling of you making your teammates happy, I love that. You’re making a diving play in the outfield, saving a run for my pitcher, that’s the best feeling ever. Bring in the tying or winning run or RBI, whatever. Just being there for my teammates, I thrive for those moments.”
On being sent down to Bluefield.
“To be honest, I was depressed a little bit. I was mad a little bit for a couple of days. Even though they told me that there was a chance I might be going down to Bluefield, they told me that but I was still a little mad because I felt I was doing good but I didn’t show it.
I was mad, I can tell you, I was mad but I had that instinct, that feeling in me like, ‘Hey bro, are you going to let that get to you or are you going to finish the season strong?’
What helped me there in Bluefield was I had great teammates. My teammates are really fun to play with. The manager and the whole (coaching staff) made me really comfortable, I could always talk to them whenever. They always looked out for me and let me play my game. I was so comfortable there, I even forgot that I even got sent down. We ended up in first place for the whole year, ended up playing in the playoffs but ended up losing in the first round.
It was fun playing with those guys. It helped me in finding out who I really am. I got a lot of playing time there and I kind of figured out myself, figured out what is my weakness and what is my strength. Even though we didn’t have much fans, it was a really great time playing there.”
On leading the Appalachian League in triples.
“I feel like if I see an outfielder’s jersey turn around-when they turn around their jersey, they should always be treating me, ‘Oh, I’m going to run for an inside-the-parker every time.’ Every time I see I hit a ball in the gap, I see the defender’s jersey turn around, I’m trying to think three every time. I’m only thinking about two when I get a base hit, to get that extra base. Every time I see the defender’s jersey, I’m trying to think three every time out of the box.”
On the playoff series against the Pulaski Yankees.
“I felt like Pulaski was one of our biggest rivals, they’ve always beaten us. They had a really good team. I feel like they always were A-1 against us. Every time they played us, they were their best against us. I feel like going in the playoffs, we had to attack them first.
Me leading off the playoffs with that home run, I was really fired up because we beat them (in Game 1). Leading off with that homer was a great, great feeling. My teammates really wanted the game, really wanted to win. That was a great, great feeling.”
Chavez Young homered four times with Bluefield and added two more in the playoffs, including one for Vancouver.
On whether he thought he was going back to Vancouver.
“No chance. I was lost. I was already packing to go home so I could get ready for instructs. Right before we were supposed to go on the bus at 4 o’clock in the morning to head down to Charlotte Airport, they told me that they were changing my flight ticket to Vancouver and I was shocked, it was mind-blowing. I was really happy because I was minding my own business and I was staying in my own lane and the opportunity came right back for me again. I was really happy to get the opportunity to showcase myself in Vancouver.
I flied right in to Spokane so I didn’t drive down to Spokane with the team. When I came in, my teammates – it was like, “Chavy!’ They were happy to see me again. It was like coming back home. They greeted me like I was coming back home from a long visit. Everybody was happy to see me. I was already comfortable. They were already family to me. It was a great feeling being back with my own boys.”
On playing his first games in Vancouver during the North Division final against the Spokane Indians.
“I remember the great diving catches in right field, that’s what I remember the most. Every time I made a catch, even a fly ball when I make a catch, the crowd goes crazy. Every out, the crowd would just went crazy. Especially when I made those diving catches right on the side of the wall, flipping over the wall or stuff like that, the crowd was going insane and that was so fun.”
Chavez Young contributed three hits, three walks and three runs during the post-season.
On returning to Eugene and hitting a home run in Game 1 of the Northwest League final against the Emeralds.
“When I was going into that at-bat, I was thinking ‘Attack the fastball.’ When I saw that pitch, (I was just) staying back, staying back and trying to drive it. I wasn’t trying to do too much. I was just trying to drive the ball and get on base. Once I get on base, I know for sure my teammates are going to bring me in and it was just for happened for me to go over the fence. I was just trying to drive the ball and hit the ball hard every time I get to the plate.”
On the events leading to scoring the tying run as part of a two-run rally in the fourth inning to win Game 3 of the Northwest League final.
“I remember, (manager) Rich Miller, we had a meeting right before that game. He was saying, ‘Just go hard! Doesn’t matter, should I go? Passed ball? Just run hard. Your teammates need you.’ That’s what I felt like. My teammates needed me. It doesn’t matter, you just need to get on base and just go hard for how long, like five minutes, 10 minutes.
Me hitting that ground ball, I was pissed off, I hit a ground ball to shortstop (Jhonny Betencourt) but I just thinking ‘we run it out, we run it out, we run it out.’ Especially when I’ve got kids who’ve been watching me at the dugout, see how I play and go about my business. I want to be a good example. I run it out and luckily I was safe by an error.
Logan (Warmoth) had a great hit, he hit it really like a missile. I couldn’t react that quick, I shuffled and then turned around and dived back into the base and luckily, (third baseman Austin Filiere) threw it over the first baseman’s head and I got to third base. I remember I was just trying to go hard every time.
And then I see (Kacy) Clemens hit a little dribbler to first base but I was (running) on contact, no matter what. We always practiced it in extended (spring training) on contact, you got to be (going) on first movement, the secondary (movement) and the shuffle. Everything happens for a reason, which you practice and it pays off, and that’s how it went down.”
Chavez Young is introduced on the scoreboard prior to Game 3 of the Northwest League final.
On his tumbling catch over the right field wall in foul territory for the second out of the ninth inning of Game 4.
“I was like, ‘We only need three more outs. Three more outs!’ That was it, three more outs.
It’s funny. I was like ‘If I get injured, the season’s already over so after three more outs, three more outs. I mean, man, I’m going to be wearing a ring!’ That was all I thinking about in my head, “Just three outs.’
I was hoping the ball was going to be hit to me. I was going to jump through a wall just to get the out. The only thing in my head was like, ‘I need a ring in March. I’ve already giving my ring size.’
On how he felt physically after that catch.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel it. My energy was flowing really fast. I was hyped. My teammates were there for me. They hyped me up. The crowd was hyping me out so I couldn’t feel nothng. I could feel no pain. I was probably sore (the next day) but it didn’t matter. We won a ring.”
On being part of the championship celebration.
“I felt like if there was a time to do a 60-yard dash, that was going to be the moment right there. I was just flying to the pitcher’s mound just to celebrate. I felt like I got to the pitcher’s mound in like 0.3 seconds from right field. It was kist amazing, it was mind-blowing. I was like, ‘Wow! It felt like the World Series, a mini-World Series.’
With a great crowd and we had great support behind us. We played hard. Everybody did their job on the field. It was just fun, I was just happy, just mind-blowing. I was happy. I couldn’t talk, I was happy, I was lost for words.
I run to the middle, I throw my glove up. I just remember in the (celebration), Lundy, (Brock) Lundquist, he was under everybody and I was trying to help him up so he won’t get smashed. I was trying to get him up. That’s how happy we were. Everybody was there for each other.”
On being a switch-hitter.
“Because I’m a natural right-handed hitter, I feel like I needed to work more on my left side. What I learned this season, even when I hit good on the right side, even when I had more swings and more at-bats from the left side, I can’t abandon my natural side.
I had been a little shaky this year. I would swing a lot from the left side because I feel like I was facing a lot of righties this year but I worked so much on my right side.
What I did so good this year is that I balanced both sides off. One day left-handed and one day right-handed so it was like equally 100-100. Both sides get both reps so both sides feel really great right now and I need to keep the routine like this going through the season.”
On when he started switch-hitting.
“I started switch-hitting when I moved to the States when I was 15 or 16 years old. It was something I decided to do on my own. I remember when I played with Lucius Fox from the Rays. Before he even got drafted, we played together in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. I was in the (batting) cage and he was hitting left-handed and right-handed. One day, he showed me like, ‘Hey, just try it out,’ and I started and practiced it a little bit but that’s when I was 13 or 14 years old. I didn’t really take it serious but when I went back home to the Bahamas, I was thinking about it and then when I moved to the States for boarding school, that’s when I started switch-hitting when I was 16. Lucius Fox helped me out to think about it like ‘Hey, this is what you should start doing, you know, for your speed.’ And it was kind of my own thing. That’s when I started working-out left-handed and getting the swing right.”
On who he would compare himself to.
“Kevin Kiermaier defensively. Offensively, I’m kind of like a Jose Reyes because he’s a switch-hitter, a spark plug and a hype player.”
On what he is focusing on in 2018.
“I like to improve on my consistency. Offensively, I need to work on getting on base, getting my on-base percentage higher and improve my batting average. Any league I go in, I want to be top-five in stolen bases and get to a Futures All-Star game.”
A big thank you again to Chavez Young for being more than generous with his time in this edition of C’s Chat.