Blue Jays’ Young striving to help native Bahamas recover from Hurricane Dorian

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, Toronto Blue Jays prospect Chavez Young has committed to helping fundraise for his native Bahamas. (Allasyn Lieneck/Dunedin Blue Jays)

TORONTO – Earlier this week as Hurricane Dorian battered his native Bahamas, Chavez Young couldn’t sleep. The Toronto Blue Jays prospect had tried to get home to help his brothers as soon as the advanced-A Florida State League season ended abruptly because of the storm, but there was no way there. Instead, he spent a tense three days constantly checking his phone for harrowing WhatsApp updates from Clayton, 27, and Corey, 26, who rode things out at the family’s Freeport house until flooding rose to dangerous levels.

"It was a nightmare for them," says Young. "I cannot imagine what they went through."

To the 22-year-old outfielder’s great relief, Clayton and Corey both found adequate shelter as Dorian passed through, taking refuge with some 600 others at a nearby church, and at an aunt-in-law’s two-storey home roughly 15 minutes away. They returned home Wednesday and have started cleaning up the three feet of water still in the house, plugging leaks in the roof, too.

Young is anxious to join them, but for now he remains at the Bichette home in St. Petersburg, Fla. – he’s tight with Bo and the family hosted him this year while he played at Dunedin – as he awaits some type of transport to become available. Eager to do something in the interim, he launched a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the country’s rebuild, selecting the Salvation Army World Service Office to receive all the proceeds.

His goal is to raise $10,000.

"God gave me the platform and a lot of people look up to me, and I feel like I should use it in the right way just to help," says Young. "I wanted to make sure I do it right, like the money is going exactly straight there, and that everybody knows where it’s going.

"I know it’s not going to help the whole Bahamas, but it’s a little something."

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The Category 5 storm with winds up to 320 km/h arrived in the Bahamas on Sunday and devastated the island until Tuesday.

As of Friday morning, the official death toll stood at 30 but local officials expect the final tally to be far higher with hundreds, perhaps thousands, still missing in the Abacos and Grand Bahama.

Given the wide-scale devastation across the Bahamas, Young feels fortunate.

"It’s at the point that, yeah the house is messed up but your family is OK – that’s what brings you happiness and joy, you know?" says Young. "My brothers are safe."

The three brothers have been through a lot already this year, first losing a grandmother and then their mother Marinetta – a driving force in Young’s life – a week apart in April.

Dorian delivered yet another hurdle, and in recent days Young has stockpiled toiletries, cleaning supplies and clothing basics like underwear, socks and T-shirts to eventually take back home with him so Clayton and Corey can have "a little head start."

"Whatever I do, it won’t heal whatever they went through," he says. "But as much as I can help, I want to help."

Young praises Clayton and Corey for smartly managing the battery power on their phones during the storm so they were aware of local updates, and could communicate with him in Florida.

The scariest message came when they had to leave the house.

"At first, they were texting that everything was going good and the house is good, the water’s not that high," recalls Young. "And then like an hour later, they wrote that they had to turn their phones off and evacuate. They sent me one video and the height of the water (in the house), it was like five feet."

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Relative to other parts of the Bahamas, Clayton and Corey got off lucky. The house is in central Freeport and their street didn’t get hit as hard others. But knowing what they were going through made for some restless nights.

"I’d think about how I’m comfortable, sleeping in a comfy bed, have power and my brothers, they just wanted their phones charged (so they could communicate), just trying to survive, finding a safe spot to sleep," says Young. "It was a tough 40 hours. Life and death. I’m just grateful they’re OK. It was bad, but not as bad as it could have been."

Helping him through things have been Mariana and Dante Bichette, whom he has known since the fall of 2017, when Bo invited him to work out together that winter.

Though both were drafted in 2016 – Young in the 39th round, Bo in the second – they didn’t connect until that September at a World Baseball Classic qualifier. Young went 1-for-2 with a walk in a 4-3 win over a Brazil team with Bichette, who was 1-for-3 with a stolen base.

Neither team advanced, Israel emerged from that qualifier, a friendship was born.

"The amount of support this family has done for me, I can’t explain. This is the type of family that doesn’t ask for a thank you because their heart is made up with love," says Young. "In 2018, I had that big year (at low-A Lansing) because I surrounded myself with bright positive people who want to be great, work ethic. Obviously being around Dante Bichette Sr., helped me tremendously. The vibes around here, it was great for me."

This year was tough professionally for Young, as well, as he batted .247/.315/.354 over 111 games at Dunedin after opening eyes with an .808 OPS and 44 stolen bases at Lansing, where he was 1.3 years below the average age for the league’s hitters.

Along the way, he’s felt an encouragement from up north, too.

"I’m really grateful for the support of my Canadian family," says Young. "They’ve had my back all season, looking out for me, asking how I’m doing and it goes a long way. It goes a long way."

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