Inside the Phillies: Delmon Young works to change image after harassment incident

Posted: January 24, 2013

Google Delmon Young's name and, among the words that pop up next to it, are hate crime.

Add the letter A after Young's name in the world's most popular search engine and you'll find the words arrested, anti-Semitic and assault on your screen.

Young, 27, understands that's a big part of the reason he had to wait until Tuesday, just three weeks before the start of spring training, to sign a deal that guarantees him only $750,000.

That's not that much money for a man with so much ability and a resume that includes being last year's AL Championship Series MVP.

The Phillies are the team that will pay the notorious talent that money, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. accompanied the signing by saying that Young will get every opportunity to be the regular rightfielder.

"I've done some things where there is a reason for it," Young said. "If I went out there and was an all-star six years in a row and healthy and a model citizen, that wouldn't have happened. That's where I'm looking to make a change. I made a change last year after the incident. It made me wake up."

The infamous incident occurred late last April in Manhattan when Young was playing for the Detroit Tigers. According to a report in the New York Daily News, a panhandler wearing a yarmulke and a Star of David pendant approached four tourists, none of whom were Jewish, as they were entering the Hilton Hotel on Sixth Avenue at about 2:40 a.m.

The tourists gave the man $20 and were then verbally assaulted by an intoxicated Young, who uttered an anti-Semitic slur. One of the tourists and Young got into a physical altercation and police later arrested the Detroit designated hitter in his hotel room. Young was charged with aggravated harassment. He pleaded guilty in November and just this week completed 10 days of community service. He also had to enroll in a program at the Museum of Tolerance in New York City.

It would be foolish to think that Amaro's primary motive for signing Young went beyond the Phillies' need for an experienced righthanded bat with power in the lineup. If that's what Young becomes, the general manager will have made a shrewd baseball move.

But when your mother is Jewish and you're signing a player whose incendiary words drew a response from the Anti-Defamation League, you look at a lot more than the statistics and scouting reports.

"I talked to the Anti-Defamation League . . . I talked to a rabbi who Delmon has become very close with in Detroit, and his agents - Arn Tellem and Joel Wolfe - are Jewish," Amaro said. "I came away with the feeling that this is not an anti-Semitic person, I can assure you of that. I also can tell you he is a pretty good guy."

In a fascinating twist, the incident in New York has led to an unlikely bond between Young and Joshua Bennett, a rabbi at Temple Israel in the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield, Mich.

"Out of a strange and unfortunate situation, we have become friends," Rabbi Bennett said by phone. "I have over the course of the last year connected with Delmon. We speak somewhat often and much of what we talk about privately will remain between him and me.

"Really, the most important theme is that he is trying to get through this incident and make people recognize this does not define him. He's a good human being and obviously an excellent baseball player. He's very appreciative that he's going to have a chance to prove that to people."

Young said people can decide for themselves what they want to think about him, but he admitted that "anti-Semite" is a label he would love to have detached from his name.

"That's not who I am," he said. "You get into one situation and all the labels are thrown around. Get to know me and then make judgments for yourself."

Young has a rabbi and a general manager believing he is a good guy.

"The most important thing from my perspective is that in the Jewish tradition, the concept of repentance allows you to make mistakes and move forward," Rabbi Bennett said. "You are defined by how you move past your mistakes. That's where Delmon's head is at now."

Young said he spent the weekend picking up dog droppings in a New York City park as part of his community service. He now has the rest of his life to add some much more complimentary words after his name on a search engine.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @brookob.

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