Joining Fellow PU Alums in MLB Front Offices, Young Heading Home to be GM of Texas Rangers
YOUNG LEADER: Chris Young fires a pitch in a 2005 game for the Texas Rangers. Young, a 2002 Princeton University alum who starred at basketball and baseball during his college career, was recently named as the executive vice president and general manager of the Rangers. After a 13-year playing career in the big leagues, Young had been working in the Major League Baseball front office for the last three years, most recently as senior vice president of on-field operations. (Photo provided by Texas Rangers)
By Justin Feil
One-tenth of the 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) general managers are Princeton University graduates after Chris Young was named the executive vice president and general manager of the Texas Rangers in early December.
The former Ivy League Rookie of the Year in baseball as well as basketball joined the ranks of Princeton alums turned general managers along with Mike Hazen (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Mike Chernoff (Cleveland Indians).
“I think it’s a tribute to one, the University, and two, Scott Bradley,” said Young, 41, a 2002 Princeton alum, referring to the longtime Tiger baseball head coach.
“What he has done over the years with his program, the influence that his players and thereby him have had on Major League Baseball is pretty significant. It really is a tribute to what a special person he is and I certainly would not be here without him.”
Young took a different path to his post than did Hazen and Chernoff, who headed into administration quickly after graduating from Princeton. The 6’10 right-hander Young spent 13 years in MLB before jumping right into the league’s front office for the last three years, most recently as senior vice president of on-field operations.
“There’s only so many ways to stay in the game – either on-field or front office,” said Young, a native of Dallas, Texas.
“On-field had appeal, but being in the front office and the opportunity and the challenge of trying to create a vision and culture of sustained success is something that’s the next challenge. I’m excited to try to do that here with the Texas Rangers.”
In executing that vision, Young figures to be kept busy regularly as he looks to rebuild the Rangers. Being around the team on a day-to-day basis likely will force Young and his wife, former Princeton soccer player Liz Patrick, to miss some more Reunions for the Class of 2002.
“There’s going to be a year where my schedule aligns and we’re going to be playing the Phillies or the Yankees or somebody the weekend of Reunions and I happen to have an off day,” said Young. “One day I look forward to being there.”
In 2019, Young did return to receive the Princeton Athletic Department’s top alumni award, the Princeton Class of 1967 Varsity Club Citizen-Athlete Award. He has addressed the men’s basketball team for Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson and remained a friend to the University administration.
“Both of us have this mutual love for the University,” said Young. “I think it’s bonded in our marriage as well. Between the two of us, we bleed Orange and Black and we’re very proud of the University. It’s shaped our lives in so many ways. It brought us together. And the people there between Mitch, Scott Bradley, Mollie (Marcoux Samaan), Gary Walters, there are a lot of people with whom we’re really connected with and will be for life. We’re grateful for those relationships. It speaks to what a special place Princeton is and what a unique community exists in Princeton. Certainly we’re very proud to be a part of it.”
In a unique opportunity, Young, who also interviewed with the New York Mets for their GM position, joins his hometown Rangers. It’s the second time that the franchise has been a part of a significant milestone in his baseball career.
Having made his MLB debut in 2004 with the Rangers, Young now gets his first shot as GM with them.
“I was a Ranger fan from really the day I was born,” said Young. “I had the opportunity to make my major league debut with them, and now live here with my family. My kids are Rangers fans. This organization has influenced my life in a lot of ways, and now the opportunity to be a part of my childhood team and have the challenge of winning a championship and bringing this metroplex their first World Series championship along with the great people the Rangers currently have, to me that would be as much of a professional accomplishment as anything I could dream of.”
Young excelled in basketball and baseball at Highland Park High in the Dallas suburbs before continuing on to Princeton, which offered him the chance to play both. Though he had only completed his sophomore year, his 21st birthday made him eligible for the 2000 amateur draft and the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the third round.
When Young signed that summer, it ended his college career but put him on the path to MLB. “At the time, it was a really hard life decision for me to leave Princeton and give up my basketball career to pursue a career in the minor leagues and hopefully in the major leagues,” said Young.
“As I look back and reflect on it, certainly I would have loved to have lived out the other path and seen how that would have played out, yet to reflect on where I am today I think it’s all worked out the way it was meant to be and I’m grateful for what Princeton has meant to me and the influence it’s had on my life. It validates my decision at the time.”
Four years later, Young debuted for the Rangers, the first Princeton product to play in a MLB game in more than 20 years. Young went on to play for four other teams – the San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, and Kansas City Royals.
Along the way, Young was named an All-Star with the Padres in 2007. He was the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series and went on to win a World Series ring that year with the Royals. His decade-plus playing experience gives him a unique perspective in his GM role.
“Certainly there’s great empathy in terms of what players go through and how hard the game is,” said Young.
“I also have an idea of what it takes to play at this level and how important culture and chemistry is. Those are some of the things my playing experience has prepared me for. I have a lot to learn in terms of the front office, but I think those are things that I’ll take with me and carry with me in shaping this team.”
The new appointment will stir his competitive fire again. After three years in the MLB front office in which he worked on issues affecting on-field play, pace of play and discipline, Young is back focusing on trying to help a team win.
“At the end of my career and transitioning into the commissioner’s office, there was a point where it was probably good for me to step back from the competition,” said Young.
“I lived it for close to 20 years on the playing field and to step into a different role where you weren’t glued to the daily results of the team or your own individual performance was probably good for me in a way. It was nice to work on big-picture initiatives, to see the game from a different point of view. That said, I am a competitor and I am looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to the organization’s success and certainly there are going to be great challenges with that. But by nature, that’s who I am and probably where I belong.”
In assuming his first executive role with a franchise, Young has been up front, but he has also assured the Rangers that he is a fast learner. He has compared approaching into his new role as he did a player on a new team.
“You walk into the clubhouse for the first time, and you don’t know anybody, you don’t know your way around, there are different areas of the organization that you’re going to have to learn and familiarize yourself with and it takes a little time,” said Young.
“Slowly you get your feet underneath you, and then all of a sudden you look up and it’s still the same game. To some degree that’s the experience I’ll have here. There will be a lack of familiarity for a period of time. At some point, you slowly start to get your head above water and you realize that you know this and can do this and you get a clear vision of what’s ahead.”
Young has been taking mental notes along his career path, first as a player and then with the MLB front office. The front office gave him a different look at the game.
“Getting a look into all 30 clubs and seeing the culture of each club helps,” said Young.
“What makes certain organizations successful, why that success is sustained, what some of the challenges are within each club, learning different communication styles, different philosophies, different visions, I think it’s all beneficial and useful along with the relationships I’ve been able to foster throughout the industry. “
Less than one day into his GM job, Texas traded starting pitcher Lance Lynn to the Chicago White Sox. On December 15, the Rangers traded reliever Rafael Montero to Seattle. The Rangers, who have suffered four straight losing seasons, have been seeking prospects and Young is charged with continuing their rebuild.
“It’s coming fast and furious,” said Young. “It’s been great getting on board and coming up to speed on a lot of different areas of the organization and connect with a lot of different people and get familiarized. There has not been one slow minute certainly in the process, but I’m learning a ton and getting exposure to so much. I’m grateful to everyone within the organization and the patience that they’re showing me. But so far, so good.”