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Young Jr. has dad to keep him grounded

Father helps son maintain perspective as he vies for center-field job
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Eric Young is the first-base coach of the Colorado Rockies, 13 years removed from his season and a half as a second baseman in Milwaukee, and yet he is as animated as ever discussing the Brewers' position battles.

Young loves second baseman Scooter Gennett -- his breakout candidate for 2016 -- but is intrigued by Colin Walsh. Pitching prospect Josh Hader is going to be a stud. Ditto for right fielder Domingo Santana. Is Jonathan Lucroy going to get traded? How long before Orlando Arcia pushes Jonathan Villar for shortstop?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Eric Young is the first-base coach of the Colorado Rockies, 13 years removed from his season and a half as a second baseman in Milwaukee, and yet he is as animated as ever discussing the Brewers' position battles.

Young loves second baseman Scooter Gennett -- his breakout candidate for 2016 -- but is intrigued by Colin Walsh. Pitching prospect Josh Hader is going to be a stud. Ditto for right fielder Domingo Santana. Is Jonathan Lucroy going to get traded? How long before Orlando Arcia pushes Jonathan Villar for shortstop?

Before long, Young reaches center field. Without thinking, he burns through the Brewers candidates at the position: Keon Broxton, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Ramon Flores, Alex Presley, Shane Peterson and one more player Young refers to simply as Junior.

At this position, Young is extremely and admittedly biased. His son, Eric Young Jr., is part of a crowded field vying for a job with dad's old team.

On Tuesday, they squared off for the second time this spring. Dad was in the first-base coaching box for the Rockies, and son started in center field for the Brewers. The Rockies edged the Brewers, 6-5.

The kid who used to take grounders as a teenager at Miller Park now is in Brewers camp as a 30-year-old non-roster invitee.

"I wish every dad could have the feeling I have, to have a son do exactly the same thing that you're doing," Young Sr. said. "Now, in the same breath, it's always difficult, because throughout my career I always worked hard and played hard, and he's had to live up to that billing and be compared. Sometimes, that's unfair because there's a lot of pressure as it is, and when he sees his father had an OK career, he's trying to live up to that standard.

"As a dad, you try not to put more pressure on him, because you know he is already carrying a heavy burden."

That explains why two men with parts of 22 years in the big leagues between them -- 15 for dad and seven and counting for son, who has played for the Rockies, Mets and Braves -- speak only broadly about baseball at the end of each day in Spring Training. The Brewers and Rockies train on opposite ends of the Phoenix metro area, but dad and son are sharing an apartment this spring. The daily 5 a.m. alarms make for early nights, but evenings are often passed over dinner cooked by Young Jr.'s wife, Victoria.

Father and son rarely discuss the Brewers' center-field battle. Instead, Young Sr. tells his visitor with a laugh, the conversations often drift to, "When are you going to make me a grandpa?"

"When you have a son who's doing what you did, you can't forget about the father part," Young Sr. said. "You have to get his mind away from [baseball] a little bit because he's so intense when he's in between the lines."

Tweet from @Brewers: Like father, like son. https://t.co/euyxXdg1eD #CactusCrew pic.twitter.com/dWOkQemAib

Young Jr. was a regular at the ballpark in Milwaukee and stops elsewhere on dad's baseball journey, yet never felt pushed into the sport. He played three sports in high school, and for a time it appeared far more likely that Young Jr. had a future in either football or basketball.

He had a football scholarship to Villanova when the Rockies made Young Jr. a 30th-round Draft pick in 2003, and remembers meeting dad at the Grant Hyatt in Manhattan before a Brewers-Mets game to discuss whether to sign or go to school.

"We sat down and he said, 'What do you love to do?'" Young Jr. said. "I told him I want to play baseball. He was surprised by my decision."

Was it ever difficult in dad's shadow?

"The downside was really only in my beginning years as a professional," Young Jr. said. "Everything had his name next to it. 'Eric Young Jr., son of Eric Young.' Then I reached the big leagues and started to establish my own name. Now he always jokes about it like, 'Hey, you're EY Jr.'s dad!'

"I learned more to embrace it. Once you learn to do that, you learn it's all for the best."

Young Sr. still has fond feelings for former Brewers GM Doug Melvin, but Melvin isn't in charge anymore. Instead, new GM David Stearns will have the final say over Opening Day roster decisions.

If Young Jr. makes the cut, he would give the Brewers their third father/son combo. Tito (1970) and Terry Francona (1989-90) and Davey (1970-74, '78) and Derrick May (1995) did so previously.

"I think he brings a dimension that will excite the Milwaukee organization as well as the fans," Young Sr. said. "His speed is his best attribute that not many people have. I remember Milwaukee making it to the playoffs and beating us [in 2011] when I was an Arizona coach, and they had speed on that team. I think that type of pressure, with Braun in the middle and Lucroy and young Domingo Santana, would definitely be a benefit.

"If [Junior] continues to do what he's doing, and show Milwaukee that he's playing up to that ability, he should have no trouble making that team."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies