By Robin Erb and Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press –
As his teammates prepared Friday night for their series opener at Yankee Stadium, Tigers outfielder Delmon Young was arraigned in a Manhattan courtroom, accused of a hate crime. Police said he used an anti-Semitic slur against four men and tackled one of them.
Young, 26, was intoxicated during an early morning physical confrontation with the men outside the Hilton New York along Sixth Avenue, Detective Joseph Cavitolo, a New York police spokesman, told the Detroit Free Press.
The misdemeanor charge — aggravated harassment — is punishable by up to a year in jail. The charge was submitted as a hate crime “because of a belief and perception regarding … religion (and) religious practice,” according to the court document filed Friday night.
Just before he was released on a $5,000 bond, Young issued a statement apologizing and saying he wants to “improve myself as a person and player.”
“I sincerely regret what happened last night,” Young’s statement read, which was released through his attorney, Daniel Ollen, and a New York-based public relations firm.
“I apologize to everyone I affected, the Ilitch family, the Detroit Tigers’ organization, my teammates, my family and the great Tigers fans that have supported me since Day One,” the statement continued. “I take this matter very seriously, and assure everyone that I will do everything I can to improve myself as a person and player.”
Young’s statement did not specifically address the allegations.
Ollen, his attorney, also released a statement, saying, “There are many false allegations” in the case.
“I am confident that the legal process will separate fact from fiction and discredit these reports,” it read.
According to police, the confrontation began about 2:30 a.m. after a group of four men spoke with a panhandler wearing a yarmulke outside the hotel.
“They have a discussion, and the panhandler leaves,” Cavitolo told the Free Press.
According to court documents and police, the anti-Semitic slur and the physical exchange came next:
— Words were exchanged between Young and the men, at which point Young allegedly said, “You bunch of (expletive) Jews.”
— Young, listed at 6 feet 3 and 240 pounds, pushed and shoved one of the men, then tackled him to the ground, causing minor injuries to the man’s elbow.
— Young then followed the man, 32, into the hotel’s lobby.
It was not immediately clear whether the man, who refused medical attention, is Jewish, Cavitolo said.
Called to the scene, police interviewed witnesses and the victim.
A short time later, police said Young was sent to a nearby hospital because he was intoxicated. He was returned to police for fingerprinting and paper work. He was escorted into a police car from the building — amid a knot of reporters — about 11 a.m.
As details of the allegations developed during the day, the Tigers officially said little, citing club policy not to comment on pending legal matters.
At Yankee Stadium, manager Jim Leyland deferred all questions about Young to Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers’ president and general manager, who was expected to talk before the game but didn’t.
Asked how the incident might affect his lineup, Leyland wouldn’t address the question, simply stating that his lineup was already posted outside the clubhouse.
He had inserted Don Kelly into leftfield — Young’s position — and he used newcomer Brad Eldred as his designated hitter.
Because of the pending legal situation and alleged involvement of alcohol, none of Young’s teammates would address the matter, either. For those same reasons, Major League Baseball is unlikely to suspend Young or take any other disciplinary action — at least until the legal issues are resolved.
Baseball precedent, however, suggests that Young likely will go through professional evaluation in the sport’s Employee Assistance Program. This probably will be similar to what baseball had Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera do after his drunken driving arrest in spring training last year.
“We are looking into the situation, but because it is a police matter, we cannot comment further,” said Pat Courtney, spokesman for Major League Baseball.
On Thursday night, the Tigers traveled to New York after a 1-6 homestand. They are staying at the Hilton New York on Sixth Avenue — also known as the Avenue of the Americas. The hotel is a favorite spot for professional sports teams.
Only five blocks north of Times Square, the hotel is one of the city’s largest. By day, it bustles with tourists and the business activity of Midtown. By night, it is home to dozens of sidewalk food vendors, many of them selling chicken kabobs and halal food.
One vendor, who wanted to remain nameless, said that, on most nights, say between 2:30 and 3 a.m., especially from Thursday to Saturday, patrons spill from nearby bars and pubs and queue up at the trucks, looking for something hot and spicy.
The food vendors set up on both sides of Sixth Avenue at 52nd Street, just across from the hotel entrance.
The Tigers acquired Young from Minnesota on Aug. 15 in their push to win the American League Central. The deal sent minor leaguer Cole Nelson and a player to be named (another minor leaguer, Lester Oliveros) to the Twins. Young played leftfield for the Tigers, homered in his first at-bat and helped boost the offense down the stretch as the Tigers won their first division title since 1987. In 40 games, he drove in 32 runs and hit eight home runs. In the playoffs, he added five more homers.
In the off-season, the Tigers signed Young to a one-year contract worth $6.75 million. He will be a free agent after this season.
Dombrowski said after the 2011 season: “It’s not a priority” to try to sign Young to a multi-year deal during the off-season. “We want him to be with us (longer) and get a feel for him. He only joined us for a short time. We would rather have him be with us and go from there.”
Young drove in 112 runs for the Twins in 2010, with 21 homers and a .298 average, but he had only 32 RBIs in 84 games in 2011 before he was traded to the Tigers.
So far this season, Young has batted fifth, behind superstars Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Like most of his teammates, Young has struggled at the plate in recent weeks. He is hitting .242 with only one homer and five RBIs in 18 games. He went a combined 0-for-10 with two walks in his last three games, all losses to the Seattle Mariners.
Young, a right-handed hitter born in Montgomery, Ala., was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, selected by Tampa Bay. He received notoriety for an April 2006 incident in the minor leagues. After a called third strike, he whipped his bat and hit the umpire on the arm. He was suspended 50 games.
Young’s older brother, Dmitri, played five seasons for the Tigers. The club let him go less than a month before it made the playoffs in 2006.