Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Young Second to None in Banter Game Rockies' Infielder Motivates Teammates with Feistiness

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Young Second to None in Banter Game Rockies' Infielder Motivates Teammates with Feistiness

Article excerpt

Colorado Rockies second baseman Eric Young sauntered to the mound, initially just a bystander listening to the give-and-take between Marvin Freeman and pitching coach Frank Funk.

There was one out in the top of the seventh. The Rockies were leading Houston 5-0, and Freeman, his pitch count up to 110, had just issued his first walk, missing on four pitches to Brian Hunter. Craig Biggio was coming up, followed by Jeff Bagwell. In a Coors Field minute, a comfortable situation could vanish, replaced by mounting anxiety if Freeman veered off course.

The Rockies wanted to coax Freeman through the seventh and then turn to the bullpen, which is why Funk made his way from the dugout.

"I went out there, and said, `How you doing?' " Funk said. " `Free' kin d of said, `You know, I'm going to be all right.' And EY jumped right in his face. `You're not (expletive) tired. You can get another out. Let's go!' "

Two pitches later, Biggio flied to center field. Hunter, breaking with the count 0-1, was doubled off first, and the Rockies were steaming toward an 8-0 victory - their first shutout at Coors Field.

That kind of leadership is just part of Young's resume. Improved defense at second base and unprecedented offense could carry Young to the All-Star Game. He is second in the N.L. with a .352 batting average, and was tied for the league lead with 27 stolen bases after swiping six bases in Sunday's 16-15 win over the Dodgers.

And these impressive feats are merely statistical contributions, the most tangible measures of what Young gives the Rockies.

"He brings an enthusiasm," manager Don Baylor said. "He's the one player that sort of sets the tone for us."

It was just over a year ago that Baylor surprisingly started Young at second base in San Diego when the Rockies began a three-city, 10-game trip to the West Coast. With only 49 at-bats in 39 games, Young was then a peripheral presence in the Rockies clubhouse, hard as that is to imagine these days when Young is so chatty and chirpy.

"You know he's in the room," shortstop Walt Weiss said. "You usually know because you can hear him laughing and talking trash in a joking way."

As an extra outfielder not particularly successful coming off the bench, Young didn't have much of a forum, let alone the exuberance to lift anyone else's mood.

"During that period, I was quiet because I was hurting," Young said, "and the guys felt for me and knew I was hurting and knew I wanted to be out there playing. The guys kept my spirits up because there were times I c ould've come in and (said), `I just can't put up with it no more.' "

Teammate Dante Bichette remembers a conversation during this inactive stretch. Young was "looking at me with this serious confidence in his eyes" and telling Bichette if the opportunity came, he could play and could be a leadoff hitter for anybody in the league.

"I'm trying to be positive with him," Bichette said, "and in the back of my mind, I'm wondering if he'll ever get a chance. I don't think he ever lost confidence in himself. …

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