Young Jr. makes MLB debut for Rockies
Outfielder gets chance to follow in his father's footsteps
DENVER -- Eric Young Jr. woke up on the right side of the bed Tuesday morning, answering a wakeup call from his Triple-A manager informing him that he'd finally gotten the callup to the big leagues he'd been waiting for throughout his six-year Minor League career."Stu Cole, my Triple-A manager, called me this morning right after I got out of bed," Young said. "He told me, 'Here's your call, you're going up.' He told me the game time and everything and said be up here ready to go." Young's callup comes as a result of an injury center fielder Dexter Fowler sustained when he fouled a pitch off the inside of his right knee in the 14th inning of Monday's dramatic, come-from-behind victory over the Giants. Fowler suffered a deep bruise, and although he was able to continue the at-bat after several agonizing moments on the ground, earn a walk and score a run in the winning rally, he was nevertheless placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. Young followed in his father's fleet footsteps, leading off in this first game for the Rockies and hoping to add to the legacy of LoDo Magic his new teammates have rekindled. His father took the first at-bat in Rockies history in New York, trying unsuccessfully to bunt for a hit. Then, in the first at-bat by a Rockies player in Colorado, he launched a home run into the left-field seats at Mile High Stadium, a moment that many Rockies fans still recall as the franchise's most memorable. "It was a tremendous feeling, just to have my heart filled with happiness and joy to see him finally reach his dream," Young Sr. said. "And to play on the same field that I played on, you can't write a better script than that."
Young Jr. went 1-for-4 in his debut on Tuesday, collecting his first big league hit with a sharp single to left field in the fifth inning. He was picked off trying to steal second.
" ... For him to get that first hit out of the way, that's a lot of pressure, trying to get that first hit out of the way," Young Sr. said. "He knew Daddy was in the stands, so I'm sure he was trying to get that stolen base, too. It was great."
"I realize that this is a little bit of a baptism of fire in [Young's] case, but we have one guy [left fielder Carlos Gonzalez] that sustained a puncture wound in his hand, another guy that we've just had to put on the disabled list after he took a vicious foul ball off the inside of his right knee," manager Jim Tracy said. "I think you're at the point in time in the season where you find out about the depth of an organization."The switch-hitting Young, 24, hit .299 with seven homers, 10 triples, and 21 doubles in 119 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs this season. Young has 58 stolen bases and leads all Minor Leaguers with 118 runs scored. "It was just a matter of continuing what I was doing in years past as far as getting more disciplined at the plate and using my speed to my advantage," Young said of his first season at the Triple-A level. "Getting on base, causing havoc for the other team, and setting up my teammates for success. Down there the team's in first place, and we've been doing a good job of causing other teams problems." With Fowler and Gonzalez out of the lineup and the National League West-leading Dodgers in town with a mere three-game lead over the Rockies, it's a chance for Young to show the strength of the Rockies' system and his own ability to make an immediate impact. "He's quite an asset at the top of the lineup if he reaches base," Tracy said. "You'd be hard-pressed to come up with the name of a guy that's faster than he is. This kid has done a tremendous job in Triple-A, and he probably even prior to this has deserved an opportunity to become a Major League player, but because of the way that we've been performing the opportunity has not been there to bring him here." While Young is accustomed to hitting in the leadoff role, he is relatively new to center field, where he started Tuesday night. A natural second baseman, he began focusing on center field in the Arizona Fall League last year and has been playing center for the much of the past two weeks with Colorado Springs. "I feel good out there," Young said. "There's little things I can work on to make it a little smoother. If the ball's in the air I'm going to go get it." Young has worked hard to ensure that he can hold his own in center, working on his reads off the bat, dealing with his awareness of the wall, the wind and the twilight visibility issues. The work has paid off, and the report on his prowess in the outfield gives Tracy confidence to challenge Young with an instant start covering the expansive Coors Field acreage. "He was doing a very good job in center field, no question," Tracy said, eager to see what kind of effect Young can have on the big league stage. "This is a catalyst-type player, this is a high-energy-type player that can do some very special things in the lineup. But I also think part of being a good offensive player is feeling comfortable with what you're doing defensively. And I think that moving forward that's something that we're working on trying to completely sort out, and that is establishing that comfort for this young man as a defensive player. It's not something that's going to happen overnight." For Young, it's been more of a lifetime journey. He was 7 years old when his dad made his Major League debut with the Dodgers, and he remembers watching his father's efforts to succeed at the highest level. He saw many of his father's baseball accomplishments, including the first Rockies game and the legendary leadoff homer in the inaugural home opener. "I know how the fans treated him here," Young said. "They loved his playing style. Hopefully, I can bring more of the same. "The home run's not my biggest highlight," Young said of watching his father's career. "Just him being a Major Leaguer. I know how hard that is. Especially moreso now, I know how hard it is to get up there. That's my biggest highlight." On Tuesday night, Young Jr. adds his own chapter to the family highlight reel.
"Every achievement that he gets, everything that he achieves in the Major Leagues will be better than anything I did, because that's my son," Young Sr. said. "I want him to have more success, a better career and to enjoy the game more than I did."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.