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Padres get taller, Young-er02/23/2006 7:13 PM ET
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres didn't get young during the offseason, but they certainly added a pair of impressive Youngs. There's Chris Young, the 6-foot-10 pitcher from Princeton and the Texas Rangers, and there's Walter Young, the 6-foot-5, 322-pound first baseman from Purvis, Miss. The tallest and biggest athletes in franchise history, Chris and Walter join veteran Eric Young, esteemed leader of the bench brigade. Walter Young put on an eye-popping exhibition during batting practice on Thursday, launching several tape-measure blasts along with bullets to all fields, serving notice that he'll be someone to watch during Cactus League play. "He hits lasers," general manager Kevin Towers said. "When I'm hitting the ball well the opposite way," the young slugger said, "that's when I feel right at the plate. I felt good today." Walter Young, who turned 26 on Feb. 18, was signed as a free agent after Baltimore removed him from its 40-man roster following the signing of Kevin Millar. In 14 games and 33 at-bats with the Orioles in '05, Walter batted .303 with a homer and three RBIs. Originally signed by Pittsburgh as a 31st-round choice in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, he chose baseball over a football scholarship at LSU, which projected him as a defensive end. "I've always loved baseball, everything about it," the slugger said. Baltimore claimed Walter Young on waivers in 2003 after he'd put together solid back-to-back Minor League seasons, including a .333 average and 25 homers and 103 RBIs in '02 for Hickory. It began a trend he calls "frustrating." He had another big year in '04 for Double-A Bowie, finishing with 33 homers -- challenging reigning NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard for the title -- and 98 RBIs with a .274 average. With Ottawa last season he batted .288 with 13 homers and 81 RBIs. He's considered an adequate glove man at first base. "He can move around for his size," Towers said. "Definitely, I'm here to take advantage of my opportunity," Walter Young said. "I'm just trying to do the things I do best. Basically, defense is just as important as offense. Me being a bigger guy, I have to do some things to stick around." With an option left, the first baseman could start the season at Triple-A Portland given the club's depth at the position with Ryan Klesko, Adrian Gonzalez and Paul McAnulty. Walter Young, who grew up admiring super-size sluggers Frank Thomas and Cecil Fielder, thought he had a shot at first base in Baltimore before the Orioles opted for Millar and Jeff Conine. "It's frustrating," he said. "It's also a part of the game. You have to be mature enough to handle situations if you're going to continue playing baseball. "Hopefully, I'll find a home here."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.