Angels utility man has persevered after infant's death in January
By Maria Guardado
ANAHEIM -- As soon as Eric Young Jr. made contact with the ball and sent it flying toward the right-field bleachers for his first home run in three years, the veteran utility man thought of his family.
It has been a trying year for Young, whose baby son, Eric Young III, died in January after being born 11 weeks premature. The tragic loss added special meaning to Young's go-ahead homer, which snapped a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning and lifted the Angels to a 2-1 victory over the Braves in Wednesday night's series finale at Angel Stadium.
As he trotted around the bases, Young held up three fingers in a nod to his late son and pointed to the family section after crossing home plate. After the game ended, he broke down into tears while discussing the emotional event in an on-field interview with Fox Sports West reporter Alex Curry.
"Just a special moment, not only for myself, but for my family," Young said. "The majority know already the adversity we've had off the field with my son. … I had an emotional message out there, but those were tears of joy. I know I shed plenty of tears this year, and it was just a special moment."
Young, 32, signed a Minor League deal with the Angels over the offseason and opened the season at Triple-A Salt Lake, but he was called up on Monday after Mike Trout landed on the disabled list with a UCL tear in his left thumb. He has made the most of his opportunity, batting .455 (5-for-11) with a home run, a double and two stolen bases in three games since his promotion.
On Wednesday, Young reached base three times and also made a nice running grab on a fly ball to left field from Rio Ruiz in the second. But his biggest contribution came in the eighth, when he crushed the game-winning homer off Braves reliever Arodys Vizcaino. It was his first home run in the Majors since May 12, 2014, when he was with the Mets.
"EY, he's a good player, and he's got some Major League experience," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's had a tough couple years of trying to get back and hook on and stay in the big leagues, but he's got a great tool set.
"You see the speed, you see the defense. He does a good job out there in whatever position you have him on. And at the plate, he's a tough little out. He showed he can put a charge into a fastball tonight. Any time a player perseveres like EY does and they get an opportunity, it's great to see them achieve. He gave us a big lift tonight."
Rather than allow himself to drown in sorrow, Young said he has been open about his grief in the hope that he can help others who are also enduring difficult situations. He credited his teammates in Salt Lake and Anaheim for picking him up amid a difficult year.
"You can't quit," Young said. "It's an easy situation to bury yourself. You can hide in a hole, but just try to turn to a positive and be an inspiration to others. Not to give up, not to quit on yourself or your family and go out there and give it everything you've got. I think a lot of things were put in perspective for me.
"Regardless of what level I'm playing on, I'm blessed to play this game. Wherever they ask me to go play, I'm going to put a uniform on and I'm going to go out there and give it everything I've got and stay in the moment and enjoy the moment."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.