Bond of baseball keeps Young Sr. close to son
D-backs' first-base coach shares spring home with Eric Jr.
PHOENIX -- Eric Young Sr. kept his composure in the D-backs' dugout.
As his son Eric Jr., wearing a Colorado Rockies jersey, stepped into the batter's box to pinch-hit on July 22 at Chase Field, his father, the D-backs' first-base coach, looked cool and collected.
Looks, though, can be deceiving.
"I tried to hold my emotions in, because I realized the camera was going to be on me," the proud father said. "So I kept it cool, but inside, yeah, I was nervous. I was a proud papa to have my son in a big league uniform. I mean, how many dads can look over on the same field and see their son playing?"
It was the first time that Young watched his son play on a Major League field while sitting in the dugout, and it's a moment he will never forget.
"I thought back to those times when he would come to the park when he was a little boy, not even knowing at that time whether he was that interested in baseball or not," said Young, who played 15 years in the big leagues. "Taking him with me to the ballpark back then, it was just a father-son outing."
Eric Jr. drew a walk off Sam Demel and would face Arizona pitchers eight times in 2011, going 0-for-7 with a walk and a stolen base.
Young is part of a D-backs coaching staff that is known for its fierce competitiveness, so yes, he was rooting for his son to do well, just not too well.
"I think any man would want his son to succeed, because I'm a dad first," Young said. "My love goes to him first. But if my son can go 4-for-4 and we win the game, I've got the best of both worlds. That's no disrespect to our pitchers, please don't misunderstand. Bottom line is I want to win the game, but do I want my son to do good? I do, and I think any father who says he doesn't would be lying."
While not every father will watch their son play in the Major Leagues, Young says anyone who has watched their son or daughter play Little League can relate.
"It's like going to a Little League game," he said. "You want him to get a hit, and when he doesn't, you feel his frustration. I probably got more nervous than he did."
Young keeps things professional at the ballpark when it comes to his son, though he does make one concession.
While heading out to the first-base coaching box before the first inning of each game against the Rockies this year, Young would stop at the Colorado dugout and quickly shake Eric Jr.'s hand.
"That was our little thing," he said.
Baseball bonded the pair at an early age, with Young taking his son to the ballpark with him during his career. And it was the experience of seeing the big league game up close that helped Eric Jr. decide to forgo a football scholarship and instead sign with the Rockies in 2003.
"He loved the game," Young said. "I didn't force it on him or anything like that."
The Rockies and D-backs share a Spring Training facility, and the father and son share an apartment during the spring, which allows them to spend some quality time together.
"That's pretty cool, too," Young said. "Hanging out with my son, going out to dinner with him, talking about the game of baseball. I'm very fortunate to be in that position."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.