Young: Ozzie inspired me to be All-Star every day

Rox coach played with Smith during his last Midsummer Classic

Young: Ozzie inspired me to be All-Star every day

I could say my choice is Jackie Robinson. I can talk about growing up in New Jersey and following Willie Randolph with the Yankees, or watching the Mets and Darryl Strawberry. But throughout my career, there was one guy, and that was Ozzie Smith.

Before I got to the Majors, I watched Ozzie, and followed him while I played. I wanted to express myself in the same manner that Ozzie expressed himself on the field -- with class, flair at times, enthusiasm, every day playing the game the right way. Finally, I got a chance to pick his brain at the 1996 All-Star Game in Philadelphia.

The talk we had that day was so instrumental in me going out, no matter how I felt, and understanding I had an obligation to myself, to my teammates and to the fans. He said during the talk, "Once you become an All-Star, you're an All-Star for life. Everyone expects you to play like an All-Star. So play like an All-Star. Be an All-Star. Act like an All-Star."

I said I would instill that in Junior (his son, utility man Eric Young Jr., who has signed with the Brewers), in my kids. I will come to the ballpark as if I were playing in the All-Star Game each and every day.

Ozzie said, "That's how people view you. But that's not the reason you're doing it. It's because it's how you view yourself. You want to be an All-Star?" I said yes. "Then act like it, every day, every game."

I never told him how much I admired him for having that conversation with me.

He went into the game in the fifth inning, and I went in the sixth -- and this conversation started after introductions. That's how much I gained from Ozzie that night. I'll never forget that. It was one of the best nights of my career, given to me by one of the all-time greats. I want to acknowledge and make it known that I have never forgotten him.

Before the game, someone asked me what I wanted to accomplish, whether it was to hit a home run or get a hit. I said the only thing I wanted to do was turn a double play with Ozzie Smith in his last All-Star Game.

Guess what happened?

When the manager, Bobby Cox, sent him into the game, Ozzie turned to me and said, "Get ready. It's showtime. See you out there in a bit."

Sure enough, the next inning comes, I'm out there and there's a runner at first base. Now, before the game we practiced double plays, and Ozzie kept giving me no-look throws, and all of them hit me right in the chest. I asked him how he did it, and he said, "I've been doing it my whole life." I said, "It's that easy?" And he said, "I know where the base is." Oh my.

So we get the ground ball to Ozzie. I actually could hear him say, "Here we go." To be honest, I don't remember if it was no-look, but I know it was quick. He got it out of his hand, quickly, and hit me right in the chest.

Every day in my house, I look at a picture taken right after that, me giving Ozzie Smith a hug after turning a double play in his last All-Star Game.