Young proud to follow father's example

Young proud to follow dad's example

PHOENIX -- Robert Young hears people praise his son, Chris, for his skills on the baseball diamond and it makes him smile.

When they compliment his son's personality and demeanor, though, that makes him proud.

"He prides himself more on when people say that I'm well-mannered or that I show respect to people," Chris said. "He feels better about that than when people say I'm a good baseball player."

Chris is plenty good. Given the starting center-field job last season, he became the first rookie in Major League history to hit 30 home runs and steal 25 bases, and he's a mainstay in the Arizona lineup.

There's little doubt he was blessed with great talent, but he was also given the gift of a father who loved him, regardless of what happened on the baseball field. A man whose gentle ways and knack for making people feel good set an example for his son to follow.

"I never felt that pressure from him that I had to play baseball," Chris said. "It was never anything like that. He told me that he wants me to live a better life than he did and he wants me to pass that on to my kids. He looks out for other people before he looks out for himself and I feel like I have those same kinds of traits."

Though divorced from Chris' mother, Robert made it a point to be involved with Chris, seeing him often and always providing love and encouragement.

"He got involved in baseball when I was in Little League, in terms of helping coach my teams if needed," Chris said. "He was the guy that comes and helps out. He was just supportive. He wanted me to be the best that I could be, not the best overall. As long as I was having fun and enjoying the game, he was completely fine with that."

Robert was a realtor for a while and worked for Anheuser-Busch. Now retired, he is still helping others, fixing everything from cars to ping-pong tables.

Each day, Robert checks in with Chris to make sure his 24-year-old son is doing well. When Chris signed a recent five-year contract extension, Robert flew to Phoenix and sat next to him at the press conference.

"He made a point of being there," Chris said. "I didn't make a big deal of it, I didn't say I thought he needed to be there, but once he got there and was by my side for it, I realized that's just a sign of how much he has been there for me. He's always been by my side the whole time, even if I didn't realize he needed to be there. He knew the times he needed to be there and was there supporting me."

Growing up outside of Houston, Robert took Chris to Astros games when he could. It was those experiences, as well as watching how his father dealt with people, that showed Chris how to treat fans when they ask for his autograph.

"I remember the time when I was a kid, how I looked at those guys," Chris said. "I try to remember that I was that kid at one time and how I looked at those guys, like they were superhuman almost. I try to take some time to sign an autograph, and sometimes all it takes is a little wave to let them know you see them. "

If that sounds a lot like how his dad would handle things, well, that's by design. Robert reminds Chris not to get too "big for his britches" and to remain humble despite the accolades or money he may receive for his play on the field.

"Hopefully, when I get to the point that I have kids I can be as good of a father as he was and try to make sure that my kid is ambitious and keeps his head on his shoulders like my father has done with me," Chris said. "Some guys really want their kids to be successful in sports or to be a doctor or a lawyer, but he just wanted me to be the best that I could be at whatever I wanted. He told me, 'Never think that you can't achieve something.'"

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.