- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Dmitri Young was named National League Comeback Player of the Year this morning, a final confirmation of the Washington Nationals‘ first baseman’s remarkable return to the majors this season.

Young, 33, overcame a string of problems on and off the field to become the Nationals’ leading offensive player as well as a valued clubhouse leader. His season-ending .320 batting average was tied for eighth-best in the NL and his 74 RBI ranked second on the club only to Ryan Zimmerman. He was Washington’s lone representative at the All-Star Game.

Young earned this award out of a crowded field that also included Josh Hamilton, who overcame drug and alcohol abuse to hit 19 homers with a .292 average for the Cincinnati Reds, and Rick Ankiel, the St. Louis Cardinals’ former top pitching prospect who re-emerged this summer as a power-hitting outfielder.

The NL and AL Comeback Player awards have been handed out by Major League Baseball since 2005. Six finalists from each league are determined by a panel of MLB representatives and members of the MLB.com editorial staff. Fans then select the winners from the list of finalists through online voting.

Few could have predicted Young would earn the honor back in February, when he signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals. The veteran slugger had endured a difficult 2006 season in which he was released by the Detroit Tigers after hitting .250, spent time in a California alcohol rehab facility, was charged with domestic abuse, got divorced and ultimately was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after being hospitalized with a blood sugar level of 893.

Young thought about taking the year off from baseball, but Nationals general manager Jim Bowden (who knew Young from their days in Cincinnati together) offered him a chance to come to spring training and work his way back.

Young spent a month working out with Washington’s minor leaguers, an experience he credits with resurrecting his love for the game. After getting himself into shape, he was promoted to the big-league camp in late March and wound up earning the Opening Day job at first base.

A career .292 hitter, Young made an immediate impact in Washington. His average remained in the .330s for most of the season, and he was on pace to play in more than 145 games before he took a batted ball off his head late in the year and was forced to sit out 11 games until the season’s final weekend.

The Nationals rewarded Young for his contributions in July, signing him to a two-year, $10 million extension.

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