GMs Mike Hazen and Chris Young face off in World Series 25 years after meeting at Princeton

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Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen talks with reporters before Game 2 of the baseball World Series against the Texas Rangers Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

ARLINGTON, Texas – Twenty-five years after they first met at Princeton, Chris Young and Mike Hazen are facing off in the World Series as architects of pennant-winning teams.

Hazen is in his seventh season as general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Young in his third as GM of the Texas Rangers. Two days before the World Series opener, they sent a group text inviting Scott Bradley, their Princeton coach, to Games 1 and 2.

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“When you look at both Mike and Chris as they’ve evolved into these roles, I think their ability to deal with people, to have difficult and honest conversations, to see the value in character I think is probably their greatest strengths,” said Bradley, a former major league catcher and a brother of former U.S. soccer coach Bob Bradley.

Their ties go back to Old Nassau. Hazen was a senior outfielder on Bradley’s first Princeton team in 1998, six years after Bradley’s ninth and final major league season. Young was among Bradley's first recruits, played baseball there in 1999 and 2000 while also spending two years with the Tigers basketball team.

“I met Mike on my recruiting visit to Princeton,” Young recalled. “Played with a lot of his teammates who were the year below him and then got to know him better in the professional ranks.”

While Hazen never advanced above Class A, Young is among seven of Bradley’s players who have reached the major leagues, joined by Danny Barnes, Matt Bowman, Mike Ford, David Hale, Ross Ohlendorf and Will Venable — the Rangers’ current associate manager. Another, Mike Chernoff, is the Cleveland Guardians’ GM

“It was such a highly competitive environment. I think it helped a ton,” Hazen said. “It really pushed you, obviously, to be competent academically there, which you can put that loosely — I was competently academic. You were around such motivated, driven people that I felt like that kind of probably would help me more than anything else.”

Hazen, class of ‘98, hit .333 with 10 homers and a team-record 49 stolen bases over four seasons. Young, class of ’02, went 5-0 with a 1.82 ERA as a sophomore in 2000 as Princeton won the Ivy title while averaging 13.4 points per game in two basketball seasons.

Both were politics majors — Hazen’s senior thesis was on the 1981 and ’94 baseball labor strikes, Young’s on Jackie Robinson, integration and racial stereotypes.

Bradley inherited Hazen as a senior and team captain.

“You could see the leadership qualities at that point,” Bradley said. “There were times where I would be waiting to go to talk to somebody and Michael would literally put his arm in front of me and stop me from walking any further and look at me, 'I got to coach.' And he made sure that the players understood that’s not how we do things, that’s not our way.”

Hazen, 47, was a 31st-round draft pick by San Diego in 1998, and his minor league career was slowed by a shoulder injury. He was released after the 1999 season and called Bradley.

“He said, ‘Hey, coach, I got released. I’m not sure what to do. I’d love to try to stay in shape to see if anybody calls,’” Bradley said. “I said, ‘Why don’t you come to my house?’ So he stayed at our house for a couple of weeks.”

Bradley called baseball writer Peter Gammons, who offered to pay Hazen, a Massachusetts native, to scout in the Cape Cod League. Bradley and Gammons were so impressed by Hazen’s reports that they recommended him to Cleveland Indians assistant general manager Mark Shapiro, who hired Hazen as an intern.

“A lot of the same attributes that have led to his successful career were evident in his track record prior to hiring him and in talking with him,” said Shapiro, now the Toronto Blue Jays president. “He showed determination, initiative and drive throughout his amateur and pro playing career and in his pursuit of a job in MLB. He was an easy guy to believe in and the endorsements from Scott and Peter made it easy to push him into our hiring process. ”

Hazen rose in the Cleveland organization and left to become Boston’s director of player development ahead of the 2006 season. He was promoted to GM in September 2015 under president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, and 13 months later was hired as Arizona’s GM.

“We knew he was the next up-and-comer from all we had spoken,” Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall said. “After we met with him, there was no doubt he was the ideal candidate to lead our baseball direction: Smart, experienced, passionate and overdue.”

Bradley was coaching his first Princeton team and recruiting for the first time when he got a call from Ryan Cotton, who had been admitted to Princeton and wanted to be a student assistant. Cotton worked with the Dallas Mustangs youth baseball team and recommended Young, who also played basketball.

“I was following him in the papers in basketball, and I was seeing the numbers that he was putting up and I walked up to John Thompson (III), who was an assistant coach at the time, and said, ‘What are you guys looking for this year?'" Bradley recalled. “He says, ‘We’re looking for size. We need height.’ I said, ‘6-foot-10 big enough?'"

Young, 44, was drafted by Pittsburgh in the third round in 2000. Known universally by the initials “CY,” he was 79-67 with a 3.95 ERA in 13 seasons for Texas, San Diego, the New York Mets, Seattle and Kansas City. He earned his only All-Star selection in 2007 and won the 2015 World Series opener with six scoreless innings, helping the Royals beat the Mets for the title.

Weeks after he was released from a minor league deal by the Padres in March 2018, he joined the commissioner’s office as vice president of on-field operations, initiatives and strategy. He was promoted to senior vice president in February 2020, then left that December to become GM of his hometown Rangers.

Both Hazen and Young have taken teams to the World Series two years after last-place finishes and 100-loss seasons.

“When I was a player, I could have a singular focus. I could come to the park every day with: What do I need to do to prepare myself to help this team win?” Young said. “Every day I come to work now, I have to think about how I can help everybody else organization-wide to help us be prepared to win. And it’s much more immense and an outward focus as compared to when I was a player. But it’s also in a lot of ways more gratifying.”

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