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Young returns to Arlington to say goodbye

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ARLINGTON -- On Friday, one year after saying goodbye to Rangers fans at a news conference in Dallas, Michael Young returned to the Ballpark in Arlington to do it all over again.

A Rangers offseason usually isn't over without one big event involving Young, and this was the biggest of them all. Flanked by general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington, Young made it official by announcing his retirement from baseball after a 14-year Major League career.

Young spent 13 of those 14 seasons with the Rangers. He was with the Phillies and the Dodgers last season but officially retired with the Rangers as he and his two oldest sons, Mateo and Emilio, were presented with jerseys by Daniels and Washington.

"I played with two great organizations last year, and I had a blast, but my time in Texas was the 13 best years of my life," Young said. "I was very fortunate to be a part of an organization where one day didn't go by that I didn't feel valued. I felt it from everyone all the time. Even when we hit some bumps, I never felt I wasn't valued. There were always good intentions, and I'm very thankful for that."

Young is retiring even though he had a substantial offer from the Dodgers that included a significant role. He made the decision because he wanted to spend more time with his family, which also includes wife Cristina and youngest son Antonio. He still makes his home in Dallas.

"The Dodgers offered me a great role," he said. "At no point do I want to disrespect what the Dodgers offered. The way they defined my role, I would have been on the field a ton. I felt I had a spot where I could have racked up a lot of at-bats. But my family meant more to me.

"This was a better option for me. As much as I love baseball, I'm ready for the next chapter of my life. These boys are the driving reason why I am doing this. Everybody loves to talk about family, but you have to dig in and be there every day. When something goes wrong, I want to be the first one they see every day."

During what was an emotional afternoon, Young thanked everybody, from his family to the Rangers' front office and field staff to his teammates.

He also thanked the Rangers fans.

"I can't say enough about them," he said. "They welcomed me with open arms and were behind me in good times and in bad. It was my honor to play in front of them every day. I owe this community everything."

Young played 1,823 games for the Rangers, the most in club history. He is also the Rangers' all-time leader in many offensive categories. including runs, hits, doubles, triples and total bases.

"This is Michael's day, obviously, but we're proud and honored to be a small part of it, as he has a chance to retire as a Ranger," Daniels said. "We all know Michael's list of accomplishments. He was as accomplished, revered and respected as any player who has ever played in our organization."

Washington praised Young for being the "ultimate teammate" and talked about his professionalism, character, positive attitude, discipline, class and self-motivation.

"You look up character in the dictionary, and there was Michael's face," Washington said. "He was a champion, no doubt about it. He was a champion in every way."

Washington also urged Young to connected to the game in some capacity.

"I don't think this game will be able to survive without Michael Young in it," Washington said.

Washington doesn't have to worry about Young wanting his job. Young is not interested in managing, but he is interested in staying around the game. At some point he will likely take a part-time role with the Rangers as a special assistant, similar to what Ivan Rodriguez and Greg Maddux are doing.

"I'm open to it, but I'm in no rush," Young said. "If I was in a rush to stay in the game, I would have signed with the Dodgers. I want to get back in the game. It's a huge part of who I am. I love it."

Young, a native of Los Angeles, was drafted by the Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft out of UC Santa Barbara. On July 19, 2000, he was traded to the Rangers, along with pitcher Darwin Cubillan, for pitcher Esteban Loaiza.

Broadcaster Steve Busby, who served as the emcee on Friday, said, "I don't think anybody realized the lasting impression Esteban Loaiza would have on this organization."

Young was called up to the big leagues for the final weekend of the 2000 season when the injury-riddled Rangers were running out of players. He had his first Major League at-bat in a 23-2 loss to the Athletics on the final day of the season.

It was a portent to the start of Young's career. He became their starting second baseman on May 25, 2001, but the Rangers finished last that season and would do so for the next two. Young survived those dark years and, having signed two contract extensions, was around when the Rangers broke through, going to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.

The Rangers lost to the Giants in five games in 2010. That doesn't bother Young as much as when the Rangers, with a 3-2 Series lead in 2011, couldn't put away the Cardinals in Game 6. Twice they were one strike away from winning the title, but the Cardinals rallied for a 10-9 victory and then won Game 7.

"It still eats inside me a lot," he said. "I'm over it, but I'm not. I don't think about it much, but when I do, I get a sick feeling inside my stomach. In 2010 we just got outplayed. In 2011, I mean no disrespect to the Cardinals -- they have a great organization and I have a ton of respect for them -- but we were better."

Young was a seven-time All-Star, the 2005 American League batting champion and the Most Valuable Player of the 2006 All-Star Game. He was a five-time winner of the Rangers Player of the Year Award. He twice led the league in hits, and finished with 2,375. At 37, he still has time to chase 3,000 hits and put himself in serious consideration for the Hall of Fame, but instead he will have to be content with the Rangers Hall of Fame in a few years and more time with his family.

"That was more important to me than a number," he said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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