March 21, 2015 may not be a memorable date for most Mississippi State baseball fans.
The Bulldogs were on the losing end of a 9-7 contest at Kentucky that day. But it will always be date etched in the mind of Paul Young.
The relief pitcher made his MSU debut in the eighth inning after over a year’s worth of rehab on his surgically repaired right elbow.
“It was definitely rewarding because I’d done all that hard work,” Young said. “I want to be a part of this team. I wasn’t too nervous but there was some rust.”
Young walked the first batter he faced, struck out the next then uncorked three wild pitches before issuing his second free pass off the inning before being lifted.
His second outing went smoother a few weeks later at Texas A&M pitching the final 2/3 inning with two walks and a strikeout.
A redshirt sophomore last spring, Young missed two years worth of fall practices along with the first 24 games in 2015 while working to return. Although he was unable to throw, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder from Milton, Fla., attempted to stay mentally sharp while still on the shelf.
“I tried to stay involved as much as possible even though physically I wasn’t able to play in those games,” Young said. “I had to take in all the mental aspects of it and see how I would approach different hitters or what I’d do in certain situations.”
Young also credits the patience of pitching coach Butch Thompson with helping get his fastball, slider and curveball back on track after sustaining the injury in junior college.
“I think what makes him great is that he invests his time in every single pitcher that he has,” Young said. “He tries to work with them and develop their individual skill set.”
Baseball was not the route Young originally chose. He was a former safety/ wide receiver prospect in high school landing offers from the likes of South Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Troy.
But a knee injury prior to his senior football season sent his career in a new direction towards the diamond. After sporting a 1.94 earned run average with 55 strikeouts in 39 innings as a senior, he signed with Central Alabama Community College.
During his lone season at the juco level, Young posted a perfect 5-0 record with two saves. He had a 2.44 ERA with 57 strikeouts and a 94 mile per hour fastball en route to winning a national championship in 2013.
Florida, LSU, Florida State, Missouri and Ole Miss offered scholarships and pro scouts from the Cleveland Indians and San Diego Padres expressed interest in selecting him in the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft but he had already agreed to play in Starkville.
The Indians took a chance on him in the 21st round but he turned down the money to attend college.
“It was tough because I’d always wanted to play pro baseball since I was a little kid,” Young said. “But I felt like being with coach Thompson and being a part of Mississippi State was a great development option.”