Josh Young grappled with the possibility of his pitching career coming to a premature end after suffering a partially torn labrum heading into his senior year at William Blount.
It was an injury that sidelined him for his final season in high school, complicating his dream to play at the college level.
“It was terrible for me,” Young said. “I didn’t know if I’d ever pitch again.”
Young took a proactive approach to making sure that wasn’t the case.
After getting invited to walk-on tryouts at Tennessee, Young eventually was asked to join Middle Tennessee State University’s squad.
He exceeded even his own expectations, winning Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors.
“Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t really expect to pitch at all,” Young said. “I expected to kind of take a back seat. Then, third game in, (coach) decided to put me in, and I did well. After that, he kept putting me in.”
This season, Young made 18 appearances with five starts and finished with the lowest ERA on the team (3.10).
He got his first win as a Blue Raider against Tennessee Tech, going three innings and not allowing a run. He didn’t allow an earned run in six straight games from April 13 to May 3.
Those accomplishments are all the more impressive given the curveball Young was forced to field as an incoming senior in 2018. His accolades were already mounting — he won All-County and All-District honors and was name Varsity Pitcher of the Year as a sophomore.
As a junior, Young held a 1.98 ERA in 60 innings pitched while earning Perfect Game Preseason All-American and All-Region honors.
That momentum came to a grinding halt that summer when Young started experiencing pain in his shoulder with every pitch. He went to the doctor and learned he had partially torn his labrum — a ring of soft tissue that surrounds the area near the end of the shoulder blade.
Since it wasn’t a complete tear, Young opted to forgo surgery and went through physical therapy instead. Either way, baseball was off the table that season.
That summer, Young joined a team in Atlanta and eased back into being on the mound. He decided to try his luck emailing Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello.
To his amazement, he got a response.
“I honestly did not expect a reply,” Young said. “It was just a shot, and it just happened to work out for me.”
Young made it through that first week of tryouts at Tennessee, and he continued to be invited back to pitch throughout the fall. He was given a uniform and even pitched in the UT Orange and White games.
However, Vitello had to cut a player the last day before the season started. It was Young. Vitello told him to return next fall with more experience under his belt.
Young got to work. That next summer, he ended up in Clarinda, Iowa, where he traveled and played with the Clarinda A’s every day for two months as part of the MINK Collegiate League.
Young was voted MINK LEAGUE Pitcher of the Week by the league coaches, after which he pitched in the NBC World Series in Wichita, Kansas.
By that point, Young had entered onto MTSU coach Jim Toman’s radar.
“He said, ‘Throw well this weekend, come back and let’s talk about your position on this team,’” Young said. “I went to Wichita and I threw, and I did OK. He told me I had a spot on the team if I wanted to take it.”
Classes were starting in two days, so Young had to make a decision quickly. He could either try to make the cut at Tennessee again, or he could walk on at MTSU with a guaranteed spot.
It turned out to be a pretty simple choice.
“I was kind of at a point where I wanted to make sure I was part of a team,” Young said. “It just came down to what I wanted most, and that was to play baseball.”