(The Root) — We interrupt the stream of reports about athletes falling on hard times — and/or forced to sell valuables such as championship rings — to share the story of Dmitri Young. A two-time All-Star who played 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, Young recently turned his hobby into seed money for a good cause.
In terms of profit-loss statements, Young's interest in baseball cards didn't pay off. He estimates that he spent roughly $5 million in building a collection during his playing career. But he didn't do it for investment purposes as much as to relieve stress and amuse himself. So the fact that he just auctioned his collection for $2.5 million shouldn't be the focus here.
His plans for the money are more worthwhile to discuss: A portion will fund the new Dmitri D. Young Foundation, which will help underprivileged kids in Ventura County, Calif., excel in life by learning to make good decisions. Among the areas he'll emphasize is healthy living, particularly important since he has Type 2 diabetes.
"You come to a time in your life when it's time to do other things," Young told CBSSports.com when asked why he was selling. "When you have something as massive as that and that was 12 years in the making, it wasn't like I inherited it. I started it from scratch. The collection was with me through the good times and the bad times, and now I've started a foundation …
"So what do you do when you're finished playing?" he continued. "You find other things you like to get into, and for me, giving back to the community that I grew up in, that's what I'm all about. The collection served its purpose. It was fun for me; even during my darkest days, my collection kept my sanity."
He amassed one of the nation's truly unique collections, about 500 flawless rookie cards featuring Hall of Famers and other iconic players. The cards were graded perfect Gem Mint 10s by Professional Sports Authenticators. He owned the only 1955 Roberto Clemente Topps ever graded 10 gem mint and one of only two 1954 Hank Aaron Topps to receive that grade. Those fetched $432,690 and $357,594 respectively, among a half-dozen of his cards that commanded six figures.
"In the world of collecting, every collector has their own theme," said Joe Orlando, president of PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator). "If you are talking about baseball rookie cards in the highest quality, no other collection comes close to Dmitri's. The thing that's neat about his collection is that he's assembled not only Hall of Famers but any noteworthy player in the post-World War II period."
In addition to at-risk kids, Young wants to help his younger brother. Detroit Tigers outfielder Delmon Young served a weeklong suspension by MLB for an incident in New York in which he was intoxicated and accused of using an anti-Semitic slur. Dmitri Young went through his own problems with alcohol and anger issues during his career, and he admits that he didn't set the best example for Delmon, who is 12 years younger.
Besides plans for his foundation, there's another reason Young decided to part with collection: He's engaged to be married, and he decided that his new chapter didn't have to include his old hobby.
"When I knew I was going to be with this woman forever, the need for the cards was no longer there," Young told ESPN.com. "The cards were with me in my toughest times, during my comeback. And now, with part 2 of my life, I feel like I've done my duty as owner of the card collection, and it's [time] for many, many collectors to own a piece of what I've built."