Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Being heavy and playing baseball is usually a good thing. People loved Bartolo Colon, who captivated audiences with his heft, weighing in at 285 pounds and earning the moniker "Big Sexy". Pablo Sandoval, better known as "Panda", also earned a cult following for being round.
The 2005 Orioles, who were not good and were seven years away from contending again, featured one of these players during their roster call-ups in September. Walter Young, an accomplished football player in high school, actually turned down a scholarship offer from LSU to play baseball, signing with the Pirates. For as accomplished as he probably was in football, the dude could flat-out rake.
This idea came to my head to write this recently, but I have known about Walter Young for a LONG time, and I am happy to honor his memory by writing this. The card pictured below was one of the first cards I ever got as a kid, and I always noticed how good his stats were for just a short time. Sadly, the original card I had was lost to history due to some unfortunate and random water damage, but luckily, I bought a new one to replace it a few years ago.
Recently, I saw this tweet from @NumbersMLB, which outlines every new player jersey number announced. Domingo Leyba was claimed off waivers by the Orioles from Arizona and is donning #75 for the team. The account lists the most recent wearer in team history, and sure enough, the last player to wear 75 in Orioles history was the late Walter Young during his brief big-league stint. Alan Mills was the other 75 in Orioles history as he wore it from 1992-01 on the team.
Walter Young not only could rake -- he did all this as the heaviest player in MLB history. Hitting your weight is usually used for someone that has a batting average in the .180s, but for Young, he did it in style, batting .303.
After spending a little over seven seasons in the minor leagues, Young was recalled in 2005 as a September call-up to Baltimore. To that point, he had 116 minor league home runs and was slashing .288/.334/.338 with 13 home runs at AAA Ottawa. His 2004 season with the Bowie Baysox was incredible, swatting 33 home runs and being named an Eastern League All-Star after recovering from a slow start.
Young was out of options after 2005, so the Orioles decided to call him up and see if he fit into their plans. Young was not about to let this opportunity pass him up, and finally, on September 6, the 315-pound Young made his debut as a pinch hitter for Alejandro Freire in the seventh inning against the Blue Jays. He faced Dustin McGowan, worked a full count and drew a walk to reach base for the first time in his career.
Young got his first start and hit against the Seattle Mariners on September 10 in Seattle, driving a single that was nearly an RBI off Jeff Harris, but Jay Gibbons was thrown out at home.
After traveling to Texas and picking up another hit in the next game, the following game was Young's best as an Oriole. Facing future Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey (opposed by future Met John Maine), Young smashed this mammoth home run for the first (and only) home run and RBI of his career.
Later on against future All-Star C.J. Wilson, Young picked up another hit, his first of what became consecutive multi-hit games. He racked up another first in a multi-hit effort against the Devil Rays, knocking his first extra-base hit against Travis Harper. While Eddie Rogers pinch ran for him, the run eventually became the go-ahead run in a 7-6 win for Baltimore.
The next day, Young went 0-4 in the season finale. He certainly pleaded his case to remain on the roster in the future, slashing .303/.378/.424 in 37 plate appearances. The advanced stats help his case as well as he had a .360 BABIP, .347 wOBA and a 113 wRC+.
Unfortunately for Walter, that isn't how the cards fell. The Orioles were ready to move on in 2006 despite not contending at all, signing Russell Branyan and an aging Rafael Palmeiro to play first base. He was designated for assignment, picked up by San Diego but lost the starting job to a 24-year old nobody named Adrian Gonzalez who had just came over from Texas. That choice worked out much better for the Padres in the long run, however.
After toiling through systems and independent ball, Young played professional baseball for the last time with the Edmonton Capitals in 2009. He unfortunately passed away in 2015.
Young's legacy lives on through Domingo Leyba now, I guess. It's crazy how baseball works. You can rake, and literally hit your weight like Young did but never find a job again. We have his brief glimpse of success during his 2005 stint and nothing more in a lukewarm time in Baltimore Orioles baseball.
A quick side note, the Orioles had four players play for just one season in MLB in 2005 on their roster. They were:
What a time in Orioles history.