Rangers' Young a role model for Kendrick
Emerging Angels All-Star looks up to AL West peer and rival
ANAHEIM -- An All-Star for the first time, Angels second baseman Howard Kendrick was looking forward to congratulating the Yankees' Derek Jeter on reaching the 3,000-hit plateau in the American League clubhouse during the festivities at Chase Field in Phoenix.
"I was kind of bummed when Jeter said he wasn't coming because of the calf injury," Kendrick said. "When I was younger -- not even in pro ball -- he was the one guy I watched most, kind of the face of baseball to me.
"He spoke to me from Day 1 on the field and never changed. If a superstar like Deter Jeter talks to a nobody like me, it shows what kind of guy he is. To see him get to 3,000 hits, that was special to me. I've always admired him. Great player, great guy."
While Jeter was notable in his absence, Kendrick had another favorite player to spend quality time with before and during a Midsummer Classic that was captured by the National League for the second year in a row.
Michael Young, the Rangers' esteemed leader, has been a positive influence on Kendrick from the time Kendrick broke into the Major Leagues in 2006. The Angels see a lot of Young's Rangers as part of an American League West rivalry that is renewed on Tuesday night with the start of a three-game series at Angel Stadium.
Over the years, a mutual bond has formed between two athletes with similar swings and approaches to the game.
"Michael Young, that guy is one of the flat-out best hitters in baseball," Kendrick said. "Being in the same division and seeing him so much has been fun for me. He's had quite a few 200-hit seasons, and he has moved from second base to shortstop to third, and now he's playing some first base. To see him do that and take it in stride tells you a lot about the kind of person he is.
"A lot of guys wouldn't have handled it as well as he has, getting moved around so much. I'm getting an idea how difficult that is since I'm playing some first base and left field now. It's not easy, but he's still playing great defense wherever they put him.
"You see guys like Michael Young, how professional they are, and it makes an impact on you. Leading by example is the best way, to me, and he's a great example of that. He's the kind of player you like to have as a role model."
Young, a seven-time All-Star, holds the distinction of driving in the decisive run in two All-Star Games. His two-run triple against Trevor Hoffman in Pittsburgh in 2006 brought the AL from behind to a stunning win, and his 15th-inning sacrifice fly ended the show at old Yankee Stadium two years later.
Young has paid close attention to Kendrick, following his emergence after hitting a few bumps in the road.
"I've known Howie for a long time," Young said. "I've always felt highly of him as a young player and person. The ultimate compliment is when people in the game tell you they respect the way you play. I really appreciate that, coming from Howie."
Young, Kendrick and Jeter share something in common as hitters. They have the ability to use the whole field, driving the ball as effectively to the opposite field as to the pull side and through the middle.
"I love his approach," Young said. "He goes from left-center to the right-field line. I've seen him get better with his strike zone judgment and staying off certain pitches. Now that he's doing that, you're going to see Howie take off.
"I'd rather have a guy be ultra-aggressive and have to tone it down than being too passive and have to learn to be aggressive."
Young clearly sees a younger version of himself in Kendrick, who in turn visualizes becoming the kind of respected, pure ballplayer that Young has been throughout his career.
Vernon Wells, one of Young's best friends in the game, commends Kendrick for his choice of role models.
"Michael is a pretty good person to emulate," said Wells, the Angels outfielder who calls Arlington, Texas, his home. "He gets 200 hits a year and plays the game the right way."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.