Besides skill and physical attributes, John Young has a hidden trait that contributes to his success on the baseball diamond: patience.
"He doesn't get a whole lot of recognition because there are a lot of good players in the same position," said Chesapeake coach Jim Simms. "But he knows he's got another year, and if he keeps working hard, he'll get it."
Only a junior, the Chesapeake shortstop entered the week as the county's top hitter, nailing the ball at a robust .551. He is 2-0 on the mound, with 10 strikeouts against 11 hits and five walks, even though his initial role was intended only as a reliever.
And when the ball is drilled into the hole, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Young is ready to gamble on defense. Simms said Young has been in on 12 double plays this year, initiating nine of them. A proven clutch player, Young has just three errors.
"I like playing in the hole. There's a lot of pressure to react quickly or you've missed [the play]," said Young, a .436 hitter as a sophomore utility infielder. "I like shortstop better than any other position, even though the ball comes to you harder and the throws are longer."
Senior second baseman Jason Siemer is Young's longtime friend and teammate. Siemer said Young, who began playing tee-ball when he was 5, has been his defensive partner through both the Riviera Beach and Lake Shore youth baseball programs.
"We complement each other very well," said Siemer, the Cougars' second-leading hitter (.439) and base-stealer with 15 behind Mike O'Brien (17).
"I don't know if John's the No. 1 shortstop, but I'd have to put him right up there near the top."
Young entered last week's games batting a county-leading .593, a pace ahead of the county record (.586) established by Severna Park's first-team, All-County selection Rob McCandless a year ago. He also leads the Cougars in hits (28), RBI (17), doubles (eight) and triples (two). Young is in a three-way tie for first place with two home runs.
Yet, despite his impressive numbers and a veteran attitude, Young's name isn't the first one uttered when the county's top infielders are discussed.
Among the county's top professional prospects are McCandless, Archbishop Spalding's second-team All-County Pat Calabrese, Broadneck's Jeff Vincent and South River's Al Lee.
Young respectfully takes his place behind the older guys, for now, but he is no less motivated.
"I like to look at the statistics of the other guys. I try to stay ahead of them in the batting averages and try not to screw up anywhere else," said Young, 17. "I'm really never satisfied with what I do. I just keep trying to improve and improve every single game."
When Chesapeake plays host to defending Friendship Division champion Severna Park (15-1, 6-1 division) today, Young will try to improve on his performance in the Cougars' earlier 10-5 loss to the Falcons.
"I almost had my third home run against Severna Park," said Young. "But [center fielder Steve] Neuberger was against the fence."
Young also will get another look at McCandless, who entered this week batting .511 with 25 RBI -- two shy of the school record. He leads the Falcons in home runs (four), has just two errors and is 7-0 on the mound with a 1.24 ERA.
"Rob's just having an incredible year," said Severna Park coach Jim Pitt. "But I think John's a super ballplayer. I think he's going to have an exceptional senior year and be a Division I prospect."
Young's first pitching start, a 5-1 victory over Glen Burnie on April 27, was a complete game, a pleasant surprise for the Cougars.
"It was a challenge because I was going against their [pitching ace] Tony Saunders," said Young, who fanned six Glen Burnie batters against seven hits and went 1-for-3, with an RBI double. "I wasn't nervous, but I didn't expect to do as well as I did."
Glen Burnie coach Bruce Sider said, "I was impressed with the way he kept us off balance. His breaking pitch kept us in check and set up his fastball really well."
Using only a slow curve, a fast curve and a fastball, Young got his second victory, 14-9, over Annapolis on Friday. Over six innings against the Panthers, Young yielded four hits against four strikeouts and batted 3-for-4 with three RBI.
"John really helped us out big with his pitching in those two games," said Simms.
The 8-9 Cougars (8-7 in games that count toward the postseason) still are fighting Old Mill, Queen Anne's, Meade, Glen Burnie and Broadneck for the final two of four Region IV playoff spots.
"Next year, everyone will have to look at John as the best [shortstop]," said Simms.