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At crossroads, Young got direction from Mom

DENVER -- Eric Young Jr. has been around the Majors most of his life. His father, current D-backs first-base coach Eric Young, had a lengthy and productive playing career during his son's formative years. But this offseason, with his future on the line, Young Jr. turned to Mom.

For the past three seasons, Young received periodic call-ups to the Majors, but was shuttled between positions -- second base and the outfield -- and hadn't established a solid footing.

Young entered this season out of Minor League options, meaning if he didn't make the team, he would have to be placed on waivers. If that had happened, he could be claimed by another club or would be dumped back into the Minors with the Rockies -- or simply released and forced to seek another baseball job.

Young's mother, Paula Robinson, back home in Piscataway, N.J., played some softball and did some cheerleading, but she freely admits she didn't pass on athletic talent to her son.

But in life experiences, she has plenty. Robinson worked for AT&T in New Jersey for more than 20 years. But almost two years ago, the economy claimed her position.

Throughout Young's uncertain apprenticeship, his mother was seeking a job. Yet she always had time to talk her son through his own job situation.

"She was pretty much starting from scratch, but every day she wakes up appreciative of the life she is given," Young said. "She was not always given the best of deals. Still, to this day, she'll go through a rough one. But every morning she wakes up and thanks the Lord that she woke up, and gives thanks for all her blessings even when it seems like times aren't going her way.

"When you've got somebody like that, how can you be upset when things around here aren't going your way? I still have a job. I was still getting to play baseball, and traveling to do so. It put a lot of things in perspective."

So much of baseball lore is about fathers playing catch with sons, sons going to games with dad trying to catch foul balls together. But mom is a big part of the greatness of baseball, and Mother's Day is a perfect time to celebrate that.

Young and his mom have plenty to celebrate.

Young made the team with an outstanding Spring Training, and already has used his blazing speed to turn several games the Rockies' way.

As for Robinson, she has a new job with General Electric in New Jersey. It has kept her busy, although she was able to make it out to Denver for a few early-season games. Her positive attitude, which carried her through the rough times, comes through on the phone.

"We definitely have to fall back on our religious upbringing to keep focused," Robinson said. "I've always told him this is a journey; it's not supposed to be a sprint. Make sure every step of the way you try to understand the reasons why things happen the way they do. If you want everything to happen too fast, you may go past a spot where there's a message for you, or a time where you can be an inspiration for someone else's life.

"I always tell him go where you're supposed to go and play like a champion when you get there."

Young wanted his mother to be included in the Mother's Day package. The name he carries and the tight relationship he has with his father have been explored many times in the media. However, he shakes his head at the thought that folks don't talk much about the person whose grace and dedication made everything work.

"I lived with my mom and came with Dad in the summertime," Young said. "Mom had me for most of the year and in the school year, making sure I got to my Little League games, football games, practices, and all that. She doesn't get any publicity when she did the big brunt of it.

"Daddy was there to be Daddy. If I did anything at home, she might call him up and be like, 'Talk to your father.' But for the most part, Mom is the one with the majority of the control, even allowing me to visit dad for the summer. Being a little kid, you're not going to put him on the plane all the time. She had no problems letting me go whenever he asked for me to be there with him.

"Daddy said when I was younger that if I ever got to the situation where I'm at now, make sure Mom is taken care of."

Robinson was a straight-A student, but she left college to raise her son. She always kept education as a priority, and made sure her son did as well. She is every bit as proud that her son received a football scholarship to Villanova and easily qualified academically. After the Rockies selected him in the 30th round in 2003, Young played a season at Chandler (Ariz.) Gilbert Community College before signing with the organization.

The speed Young displays on the field clearly came from Dad. But the spirit -- the fist pumps, hand slaps with teammates and exhorting of the crowd - that comes from Mom.

"He definitely got the cheerleader from me," she said with a laugh.

Young is thankful his mom gave him much more.

Colorado Rockies, Eric Young