Photo Credit: Eric Young Jr.'s Wikipedia page
2013 was probably the worst year of my life. I went through serious trials and tribulations with my then-job. My #1 passion, pro wrestling, was becoming something I despised. I was absolutely depressed and negative about everything. And worst of all, my old man, Big Norm, passed away on November 10. It was extremely devastating.
Yet, there was one glimmer that reeked of a little of positivity. That was the New York Mets.
In 2013, with my love of baseball fully regenerated, I found myself enamored with believing in the truth of Sandy Alderson preparing the Mets for 2015. I remember telling everyone that the building blocks were in place as it came to baseball in Queens. All the blocks needed were time to mold into a foundation.
Subsequently, the team was struggling mightily. Although Matt Harvey was en route to becoming the talk of the town (and a Tommy John candidate), and Zack Wheeler made his Major League debut, the bats were immensely quiet. The group of guys the Mets were putting on the field were not performing to the levels they could have been. I, along with many other die-hard Mets fans, was very disappointed in the 2013 Mets. It was an unmotivated mess. It really bordered on lack of passion. I almost gave up on the team for the season. Another passion of mine would have been thrown by the wayside.
However, the play and hustle of Eric Young, Jr. kept me around.
Eric Young, Jr. was traded to the Mets on June 18, 2013, after being designated for assignment by the Colorado Rockies, for Collin McHugh, who is now a big deal for the Houston Astros with his outstanding curve ball. The son of MLB veteran Eric Young, the Piscataway, NJ native was a second baseman. However, due to his natural speed and need for room outside of the infield, EY became an outfielder and worked his tail off to become a multi-faceted athlete.
Once traded to the Mets, Young became a source of hustle and hard work. I immediately gravitated towards his style of play. EY was a gritty player that may not have been the greatest hitter or fielder, but his effort and dedication to be better would be essential to continuously garner his playing time. I really admired his heart in these games.
For me as a fan, EY was a breath of fresh air. He wasn’t trying to be on the highlight reels or be a superstar; Young had the eye of the tiger and the aggressive nature to perform, just to gain some more playing time. This type of athlete is the last of a dying breed of many sorts in this generation.
I’ll never forget this one moment in a weekend in late July 2013 campaign. On July 28, 2013 in a game against the Washington Nationals, I went to Citi Field, solely to witness Matt Harvey, who was in the middle of his All-Star campaign as the future of New York baseball. The Mets bullpen just blew a 3-run lead in the top of the 8th inning, thanks to the “fantastic” work of David Aardsma, Josh Edgin, and Brandon Lyon. It was demoralizing to see “the Dark Knight” have another win snatched away from him.
Regardless, in the bottom of the inning, with two away, EY was at the plate, and hit a dribbler in front of home plate. However, Young BOOKED it up the line, trying to get on base and keep the inning alive. Kurt Suzuki had a beat on the ball and launched it down the first base line. Adam LaRoche caught the ball, and EY was out by half a step. What caught my eye, besides Young’s blinding speed, was after he was called out. He jumped up in the air in frustration at himself for getting the final out in the inning. To me, that truly was inspiring. To see a guy grit it out and showcase that passion won me over as a fan. From that game onward, I was officially an Eric Young, Jr. fan. I was rooting for him all the way.
And root for EY I did. I genuinely believe his drive throughout 2013 allowed him to return for the following 2014 campaign. It really lit a fire in me as a man to see this gentleman work hard to continue living his dream and fight for another day in the sport he loved. It, in some respects, kept me going. I tuned into either WFAN or SNY just to listen and watch this guy play.
I can honestly say that Eric Young, Jr. and his tenure on the Mets helped me get through the roughest year of my life by grinding and getting through. It’s remarkable how athletes and athletics could do that for people on this planet. No matter what was going on throughout the day, I made it through just to see what heads-up play or hustle EY was going to supply in the outfield.
There were three moments in that year to officially signify how gritty EY was for the Mets in spite of a losing record. Since this IS the Professional 3, here they are.
8/2/13: EY WALK OFF 2-RUN HOME RUN – On August 2, against the Kansas City Royals, in the 11th inning, Young hit a game winning 2-run shot of Luis Mendoza (not the hockey player from D2: The Mighty Ducks fame) to win the game for the Mets. It was a fastball straight down Broadway, which led EY to take it into the netting over the right field wall to win it. I’ll always remember being in my car, waiting for the at-bat to finish on WFAN 660 with Howie Rose, before I could tiredly walk into Leon St. Giovanni’s house to record Angry Mets Guys. Once EY hit the shot, I pumped my fist into the air and got rejuvenated, just to work on a video about the Mets. It was just fun to hear a player that was quickly becoming a favorite solidify a victory due to his heads up play.
8/6/13: EY SCORES FROM SECOND ON A JUAN LAGARES INFIELD SINGLE – 4 days later, I remember preparing to record the Hardway Podcast at “Tough” Tim Hughes’ house in Edison while watching this game against the Colorado Rockies. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Juan Lagares hit a dribbler up the first base side of the infield. EY was on 2nd base, hustling to third. The second baseman missed a beat on the ball and threw it to first. Lagares was SAFE. Then, Todd Helton quickly threw the ball to home plate, but it was no use. Young had scored on a purely manufactured run of his own doing. Tim, Tim’s Mom, and I were in pretty good amazement about how gritty Young was. As Keith Hernandez said on color commentary, “That was a Mookie Wilson type play.” Indeed it was.
9/29/13: EY STEALS 2 BASES TO WIN THE NL STOLEN BASE TITLE – On Mike Piazza Mets Hall of Fame Day, combined with the final episode of Angry Mets Guys, Eric Young, Jr. was tied with Jean Segura at 44 stolen bases on the final day of the 2013 season at 44. If EY had a chance to do it, he had to strike early. Young not only stole 2nd base in the top of the first inning; he also stole 3rd! Upping his total to 46 stolen bases, combining his Colorado and Mets stats, combined with the Brewers benching Segura for the final day of the season, Eric Young, Jr. became the first Met since Jose Reyes in 2007 to win the National League Stolen Base championship. Even on an off year, it was exciting to see a hard working athlete like EY forever be etched into Major League history by leading the league in a certain category.
These three moments, among others, helped keep my mind in a positive atmosphere, in spite of all the negativity surrounding this time period. It actually gave me hope that the Mets would bring that fire for seasons to come. And indeed it did, as 2015 put the Mets back on the map with talent and vigor en route to a National League pennant. However, I really think it started with EY’s 2013 passion. It kept me around as a Met fan. It gave me hope to continue following the famous Mets slogan: "Ya gotta believe!"
Eric Young, Jr., thank you. Thank you for being a fantastic inspiration. Thank you for sparking a dismal 2013 campaign for the Mets by bringing life to the ballclub. Most of all, thank you for playing hard during 2013 and allowing me to really enjoy your games during that particular season. It really kept me moving and gave me something to look forward to on the darkest year of my life. Baseball can do that to people. Your baseball passion did it for me.
Thank you EY.