Last offseason, brought the return of pitching coach Curt Young back to the Athletics after a brief and tumultuous year tending to the beer swilling, fried-chicken loving. underachieving staff of the Boston Red Sox. The news of his reunion brought little fanfare however to the A’s faithful, as many of us were too busy creating mass panic at the loss of Gio Gonzalez and company. As I recall, the news of Young’s return was trumped by the five-alarm fire caused by a misinterpreted tweet that the A’s has expressed interest in inflated Aruban felon, Sydney Ponson. Thankfully, that rumor never saw the light of day. Ponson, stayed safely out of an XXL A’s jersey and Young returned home to Oakland where he has spearheaded the second best pitching staff by ERA in the American League.
Coaches for the most part, don’t get the notoriety they deserve in professional baseball. After all, the job entails spending endless hours of coddling, honing, and molding players to be the best they can be. Much of their duties are behind the scenes, but integral to the success of the team. In many ways they are equivalent to the teachers and educators of our society. Unheralded, unselfish heroes who are responsible for the brightest, the best. and everything in between.
Curt Young, is amongst the best in the business.
Following a 69 win, 11 year career pitching primarily with the Athletics, Young embarked on his new career as a pitching coach in 1996 with the A’s rookie league affiliate in the Arizona league. Over the next eight seasons, he elevated up the minor league coaching ranks, before taking over for pitching guru Rick Peterson at the big league level in 2004. Relieving the popular and respected Peterson was no easy task, as his predecessor was responsible for the maturation of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito into the Big 3 and was a generally regarded as one of the best pitching coaches in the game at the time of his departure to the New York Mets. Despite opposing styles and personality, Young transitioned into the role quite nicely bringing a structured professional method to managing a pitching staff. Before his first tenure in Oakland ended, he oversaw the development of pitchers such as Gonzalez, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Rich Harden into quality major leaguers.
Under his guidance, the A’s pitching staffs carried on over a decade of excellence and dominance. The pitching statistics on his watch speak for themselves. From 2004 to 2010, The A’s lead the American League in ERA, lowest opponent batting average, and fewest home runs allowed. He has personally overseen eight different pitchers be anointed All-Stars with Ryan Cook the latest, and two closers in Huston Street and Andrew Bailey crowned AL Rookie of the Year. In all respects, various pitchers have responded and excelled under him especially rookies. This season has been no exception. Rookies Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and Dan Straily compose 3/5 of the A’s rotation and others have filled in with great success including A.J Griffin and Travis Blackley. Relievers Jerry Blevins and Jordan Norberto have evolved into trusted bullpen stalwarts and no longer suffer through cringe worthy sub par outings, and Cook has emerged out of nowhere to fill the closers role. In short, Young has had his hands full with the ever changing roster, injuries, and lack of experience on his staff. However, he has handled every challenge with great aplomb and watched his pitchers blossom.
A teacher is only as good as his students, and Curt Young is living proof.