Lounging in the bright red chair, decked out in his "Live. Dream. Be." t-shirt, Eric Young Jr. felt right at home at the Digmi Nation store in Port Washington on Saturday. The New York Mets outfielder sat down with owner Ray “Digmi” Navarrete in front of a packed crowd to discuss baseball, family, fashion and music as part of the store’s Digmi Discussions series.
Young Jr., who hails from Piscataway, N.J., is having a ball playing professionally only a short distance from where he grew up.
“Being this close to home is a dream come true,” he said.
Young was acquired by the Mets from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Collin McHugh on June 18, 2013. Upon hearing of the deal, Young had to do a double take, as he couldn't believe that he was homeward bound.
“I thought they were playing with me at first when they told me where I was traded to,” he said. “I knew my family wasn’t going to believe me at first.”
Once it finally resonated that he was going to be playing in New York, he knew it was truly going to be a family affair.
“Just to hear the name the Mets and to know I’m coming back home, knowing everyone was going to be able to see you play now … I have that support system with me at an arm’s reach now.”
While not always close in proximity, one of Young’s most significant pillars is his father, Eric Sr. The elder Young is currently the first base coach for the Colorado Rockies. While Young Jr. benefited from the wisdom of his father’s 15 Major League seasons, his father’s influence extends well past the baseball diamond.
“That’s my best friend, my dad,” he said. “We talk about everything on and off the field. He makes it real easy for me to go through this journey that I’m going through right now because he lived through it. He knows pretty much what I’m feeling when I’m going well, and he knows what I’m feeling when things aren’t going so well.”
When things are going right for Young on the field, it is usually because of his speed. The 2013 National League leader in stolen bases shared an exchanged that he had with Derek Jeter earlier this year at Yankee Stadium after one of his thefts brought him into close company with The Captain.
“That was just a special moment for me when I stole second base at Yankee Stadium,” he said. "It was right after I got hit by a pitch, and then I got out there and he was like, ‘I thought you got hurt.’ I said, ‘I gotta get y’all any way I can.’ That’s when they shared the picture of me and him smiling real big. For a Jersey boy growing up watching him in middle school and to be able to talk trash to him and joke with him about out there on the field, that was a pretty awesome moment right there.”
Hoping to inspire others to strive for their own series of awesome moments, Young started a social media campaign with the hashtag #R2BI (Refuse To Be Ignored). He felt he needed to use his public status to help others not only to achieve, but to pay it forward.
“I had a sit down with my family and I thought I was selling myself short,” he said. “Being a professional athlete, a baseball player, you have the ability to impact a lot of lives reach out to as many people as possible and really be able to encourage a lot of people to follow their dreams and do what they love. I was being really selfish and focusing solely on baseball instead of maximizing my full potential, one as a baseball, and two as a person, to help encourage people around me.
“I feel strongly about being able to impact one person and [then] they can pay it forward and it becomes a chain reaction as far as everybody else trying not only to fulfill their dreams, but maximizing their potential as a person and help others. When I first started it, people thought it was just me strictly talking as a baseball player, but anybody can believe in this motto.”