By: Austin Alexander - July 29, 2017
It is with a very heavy heart that I write this morning, still less than 24 hours after my good friend and colleague Jeff Young passed away. I debated whether to run something on a public forum, but after spending much of the night watching the ceiling fan circle above me, quite a few words came to mind and chose to share them with so many of you whose lives were touched by "JY".
Jackie Robinson once famously said, "A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives." Safe to say that if you knew JY, he probably impacted your life in some capacity, he did mine.
When a person passes, often it is asked, what his or her legacy was? Perhaps folks try to sum up a life in a sentence or with a few words? I will fail here I know, but am going to give it the old college try: The dude was a devoted husband and father, always has been. A great baseball man whose family meant the world to him. A few words? Loyal... true friend... reliable... passionate... sincere... genuine... tireless worker... missed already...
I have nearly 20 years of history with JY dating back to a winter baseball camp at USC in 1998 when we were both young college coaches. We hit it off instantly and remained close no matter our proximity or where baseball jobs took us. But when another close friend of mine Monte Lee called me at 2:42 yesterday afternoon with the somber news, initial shock became eventual grieving for my good friend and his beautiful family.
So many times when a life is taken far too early, those in their closest circle have regrets. Not me, not with JY. The last time I saw him was six weeks ago, we hugged and told each other "love you man"... The last time I talked to him was earlier this week as we finalized his plans to work at the Palmetto Games, my words were, "Cannot wait to see you brother, appreciate you." To which his response was, "Yep, appreciate you too." Little did I know that would be our last exchange but I have resolve in knowing that our last encounters were like the 1000's before.
When news of this tragedy swept through the baseball landscape, it became apparent that Jeff Young touched so many others too. A text chain yesterday with some of my DP comrades and other baseball friends prompted so many of us to tell one another how much we appreciated and love one another. Yes even baseball guys have hearts and feelings, just like everyone else. The bonds in the baseball/coaching community are stronger than any outsider could imagine.
Well, my friend JY had a very big heart, a love for the game but a much larger love for those he knew. I will miss our chats about family and about life, will miss him as a large part of my adult life. When I have not been an emotional wreck, I have spent time in prayer for his favorite team: Laura, Natalie and Carly. I urge you to do the same as we remember our fallen friend and celebrate the life he shared with us.
DP Note I: The picture above is of our DP staff following an event last year supporting one of our staff soldiers who was battling cancer. JY is pictured second from the left.
DP Note II: From now on, the top hitter at each year's Palmetto Games will be named the Jeff Young Heavy Hitter Award, one small way for us to honor his contribution to our sport and young men.
R.I.P. Jeff Young: November 15, 1967 - July 28, 2017