PHOENIX — Andy Young got a call from the Arizona Diamondbacks organization Wednesday, three hours before the Nov. 20 Rule 5 protection deadline. The Diamondbacks hadn’t protected the West Fargo High School graduate from the Rule 5 draft yet, which allows clubs without full 40-man rosters select unprotected players.
The possibility of Young being subject to the draft and moving to a new team was drawing near.
Until his phone rang, and Mike Bell, the farm director for the Diamondbacks, was on the other end of the line. Bell was ready to tell a kid from North Dakota he had made it to the big leagues. Arizona added Young, a 2012 West Fargo graduate, to the team’s 40-man roster.
“He (Bell) said, ‘Hey we’re putting you on the roster, congratulations.’ It feels obviously really good. It's a big step,” Young said. “This is just a really good staple. It’s a good feeling but it’s also a big relief.”
If the Diamondbacks wouldn’t have protected Young, he could have been taken in the draft, where teams are allowed to take minor league players from other teams and add them to their own.
“I guess more than anything it’s almost a relief feeling because it’s my Rule 5 year,” he said. “It’s almost like, if you don’t get protected then you’re doing the Rule 5 draft stuff. And then after that you don't know where you could go.”
Young, 25, wasn’t expecting the Diamondbacks to protect him. He heard rumblings in August when the organization started hinting to his agent, but didn’t read too much into it.
“They (the Diamondbacks) said, ‘I think if he keeps playing well and stays healthy, we’re probably going to protect him.’ So there was almost rumors about it, but you don't really expect anything in baseball because it's such a crazy game on the business side,” Young said.
Young is now eligible to be called up at any point during the season, and is one step closer to cracking the 25-man Major League roster.
“Being on the roster is a great step, but honestly if you don’t come out and perform it doesn't really mean a ton,” he said. “And so it's almost like, well now we're going to get back to work and really try to make the team. So that's the next goal. That's kind of where my head was at.”
Throughout his career, Young has never expected to be called up. A few times, he thought if something played out perfectly or if the season was another month, that he maybe would’ve gotten a shot.
“It's really hard to expect to get called up or think you're going to get called up, especially not being on the roster,” Young said. “There’s a lot that goes into to being called up, more than just on-field play. Obviously on-field play is the most important thing, but many more things go into it.”
But his goal of being a big leaguer seems a bit more realistic now that he was added to the 40-man roster, he said.
‘North Dakota is proud’
Young, who was the 2012 North Dakota Class A senior player of the year, bounces back and forth between Arizona and West Fargo. He’s still tied to home, and continues to feel the community’s embrace.
“The support I've gotten on social media from people in West Fargo and people in Fargo is crazy,” he said. “There's so many people watching online on Twitter and even the MiLB games. It's crazy how much these people follow me.”
Young said he gets messages from strangers, and that the encouragement has been “awesome.”
“It's so cool how they truly just want a kid from North Dakota to succeed,” he said. “Even people I don’t know are reaching out to me saying, ‘Hey, North Dakota is proud of you. Keep doing your thing.’ It’s actually really, really cool. I don’t think other places in the country have that kind of kind of support, you know.”
While he’s starting to put some roots down in the desert, Young still considers the fast-growing Midwestern city his home.
“I really enjoy coming back and hanging out with family and friends back home,” he said. “I love coming home in the fall and chasing some animals with my dad. Thanksgiving, Christmas, I always come back and hang out with the family.”
The making of the merited prospect
Last year was Young’s first year with the Diamondbacks. A utility player, he plays multiple infield positions — second base, third base and shortstop. Arizona nabbed the infielder through a trade in December with the St. Louis Cardinals, who drafted him in the 37th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
Young had a breakout season this year at the level right under the major leagues. He played 133 games this year in Double-A and Triple-A minor league baseball, primarily with the Reno Aces and Jackson (Tenn.) Generals, Arizona’s Double-A affiliate. Young hit 29 home runs this year and boasts a .271 batting average.
He was also named to the Arizona Diamondbacks 2019 Organizational All-Star team.
West Fargo has one other alum currently playing in the Major League. A 2010 graduate, Matt Strahm is a pitcher for the San Diego Padres. Strahm, who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 21st round in 2012, had a 4.71 ERA this season.
Strahm and Young both attended Neosho Community College in Kansas. Young spent a season there before wrapping up his college career, which started at the University of Jamestown and ended at Indiana State.
Young's favorite team growing up, the Anaheim Angels, also had a North Dakotan in its lineup.
Jamestown, N.D. native Darin Erstad played for the Angels, and Young liked watching him with his dad, who also hails from Jamestown.
Now, Young may very well be on his way to following in the footsteps of the North Dakota major league All-Star.