Chris Young ’02, who went from dominating two sports at Princeton to a long career in Major League Baseball while earning universal respect and admiration at every stop along the way, is the winner of the top Department of Athletics alumni award for 2019. Karen Jezierny, hose behind-the-scenes work and passion for the values of Princeton athletics have touched literally hundreds of Tiger athletes though the years, were honored with major awards at the Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet on May 31st.
Young received the Class of 1967 PVC Citizen-Athlete Award, presented by the PVC for selfless and noble contributions to sport and society.
Jezierny was the winner of the Marvin Bressler Award, given to that member of the Princeton family who, through heartfelt support of the University’s student-athletes and coaches, best embodies a belief in the lifelong lessons taught by competition and athletics as a complement to the overall educational mission in the spirit of Marvin Bressler, a Princeton professor of sociology from 1963-94.
Chris Young ’02, Class of 1967 PVC Citizen-Athlete Award recipient
“We are honored to present our highest alumni award to Chris Young,” said Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan. “Throughout his time as a two-sport student-athlete at Princeton and throughout his career as both a player and now an executive within Major League Baseball, Chris has committed himself to serving and leading those around him. He has successfully used his platform as a Princeton alum and a highly successful athlete to inspire, to educate and to brighten the lives of those around him. We are grateful for his continued commitment to Princeton and to all those he has served.”
Young currently serves as the Vice President for On-Field Operations for Major League Baseball. Back in the fall of 1998, he came to Princeton from Dallas to play basketball and baseball, and he became an immediate force in both sports, winning two Ivy League Rookie of the Year Awards. By the end of his sophomore year, he was first-team All-Ivy in both and legitimately one of the best ever to play either sport as a Tiger.
Because his 21st birthday fell one week before the Major League Baseball draft, Young became eligible to be selected after his sophomore year, and his Princeton eligibility ended in both sports after he signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His commitment to the University, though, was just beginning.
First, despite playing Minor League baseball, he graduated on time with the Class of 2002, writing his senior thesis – entitled “The Integration of Professional Baseball and Racial Attitudes in America: A Study in Stereotype Change” – on his long bus rides.
He would spend 13 seasons in the Majors, the highlight of which were his three scoreless innings of relief of Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, earning him the win in the 14-inning classic and sparking the Kansas City Royals to the championship. He also pitched in the 2007 All-Star Game and was the 2014 Comeback Player of the Year in the American League while going 12-9 for the Seattle Mariners after missing the 2013 season with what had been thought to be career-ending shoulder surgery.
Chris and his wife Liz, a four-time letterwinner in women’s soccer at Princeton before also graduating in the Class of 2002, have a long history of selfless contributions to the various communities in which he played. Included in this is their “Back To School” event each year, in which they would team up with Nike and Target to provide underprivileged children with backpacks filled with school supplies for the year, as well as shoes and clothes. They are longtime supporters of educational programs and experiences through organizations such as DonorsChoose.org, which Chris named as the beneficiary of a grant earned from the Major League Baseball Players Trust after being named American League Comeback Player.
In Kansas City, the Young’s were instrumental in supporting the KC Urban Youth Academy, which created fields, classrooms and a training center in the city. The academy is committed to providing a positive environment for Kansas City youth through athletic-focused training, education, and character development programs.
During his time at Princeton and in the Major Leagues, Young has been known for his accessibility and his kindness, especially to younger fans. Chris frequently participated in visits to Children’s Mercy, one of the nation’s top pediatric medical centers, where he and teammates handed out gear, games and autographs.
In his current capacity, Young works with MLB’s Baseball Operations and Umpiring Departments on issues affecting play on the field, including the application of playing rules and regulations, on-field standards and discipline, pace of play and other special projects. Young also ensures that ballpark alterations meet MLB standards, assists with negotiations with other baseball entities and participates in issues regarding player safety, on-field equipment and wearable technology.
The Young’s have three children – Catherine, Scott and Grant.
Karen Jezierny, Marvin Bressler Award recipient
“Karen Jezierny has been the quintessential member of our ‘Team around the Team,'” said Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan. “As a Fellow for multiple teams and a dedicated fan to several others, Karen has impacted the lives of hundreds of student-athletes. She has dedicated countless hours to advising, supporting, educating, and even feeding students as they pursue excellence academically, athletically and within the community. She is a wise and trusted friend who has fully embraced the value of Education through Athletics and who has changed the lives of so many. We are thrilled and grateful to present her with this very well-deserved award.”
Jezierny serves as the University’s Director of Public Affairs, and she has also been a longtime supporter of the women’s basketball and women’s soccer programs as an Academic-Athletic Fellow.
An alumna of the University of Connecticut and of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, she began her career as an Assistant Director for Budget and Fiscal Analysis in the New Jersey State Assembly’s Assembly Majority Office before coming to Princeton in 1986 as the University’s Director of Community and State Affairs.
After two years away from the University in the early 1990s to serve as an Assistant State Treasurer under then-Governor Jim Florio and then as the Associate Vice President for Public Affairs at Fairleigh Dickinson University, she returned to Princeton in 1992 and has been a part of the campus community ever since, serving as Associate Dean at the Woodrow Wilson School until becoming the University’s Director of Public Affairs in 2004.
Her involvement as an Academic-Athletic Fellow began in 2007 after she and her husband Gregg Smith would take their daughter Dana, now a Lafayette College graduate, to Princeton women’s soccer games. She then became as much of a role model to Princeton’s student-athletes as they had been for Dana, who went on to play lacrosse at Lafayette.
Jezierny has been there for Princeton’s athletes both near – as she has often hosted the women’s soccer team in her home for preseason picnics – and far – as she has traveled internationally with women’s basketball twice.
In her professional role at the University, Jezierny helps to represent Princeton’s interests at the state government level. Her advocacy for Princeton has earned her praise from public officials both within the town of Princeton and from members of the state government in Trenton.