April 19-- Apr. 19--Since his playing days ended 12 years ago, Colin Young had settled into a comfortable retirement.
The former Pentucket High and Fordham University baseball star, who went on to enjoy a nine-year professional career in the minors, was now spending his days working as an insurance salesman in Texas. The West Newbury native stayed involved in baseball by helping out as an instructor at a nearby baseball facility, but otherwise he was a full-time dad dedicated to his wife and kids.
While he once dreamed of making the majors, he'd long accepted that probably wasn't going to happen. Until out of nowhere, and just before the start of the major league season, one of his baseball colleagues reached out with an opportunity that seemed too good to be true.
How would he like to work for the San Diego Padres?
"He texted me and asked if I'd be open to a major league coaching position," Young said. "I thought he might be joking at first."
It was no joke.
Young got a call from the Padres the next day while he was coaching at one of his son's baseball games, and within days he was with the major league team throwing batting practice to players like Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. The team liked what it saw, and days later Young was officially brought on board as a member of the coaching staff.
"It's been kind of a whirlwind," Young said. "I kind of jumped at the opportunity, picked up everything and left, but I'd always wanted to get back into the game and a big league coaching opportunity doesn't just land in your lap."
Young's official title is left-handed batting practice specialist and staff assistant. His primary responsibility is giving the Padre hitters a left-handed look during batting practice sessions, but he also helps with scouting reports, assessing other team's tendencies and preparing game plans for each opponent.
"It's been fantastic," said Young, who noted that while it was tough leaving the kids at home, it was a chance he couldn't pass up. "It's something that could lead to greater opportunities down the road, so that's why I jumped at it."
A Sachem great
Before embarking on his professional career, Colin Young was one of the most impactful players in Pentucket Regional High School baseball history. Though he spent his first two years of high school attending nearby St. John's Prep, he transferred back to his hometown school for his junior year and put a contending team over the top.
Led by Young, the Sachems went 22-3 and won the 1994 Division 3 state championship, which remains the only state title in program history. Young went 10-1 with a 1.15 ERA that year, earning Cape Ann League MVP and Division 3 Massachusetts Player of the Year honors.
"It was an unbelievable ride," Young said. "Those days were phenomenal, it was a crazy ride and it was a team that was a good bunch of guys, loved baseball and just wanted to win."
That year turned out to be Young's only full season with Pentucket. The following autumn he blew out his knee as a senior playing quarterback for the football team and he wasn't able to make it back until only a few games remained in baseball season.
But it wasn't the end for Young, who did a post-grad year at Milford Academy in Connecticut before earning a Division 1 scholarship to play baseball at Fordham University. He emerged as a key contributor during his sophomore year in 1998, helping lead the Rams to the College World Series Regionals after going 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA on the mound while batting .299 with 40 runs and 32 RBI as the team's regular centerfielder.
By his junior year, Young's fastball had gotten up into the low 90s, and he had shown scouts enough to earn a professional opportunity. He was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the ninth round (No. 280 overall) of the 1999 MLB Draft and went on to play nine years of professional baseball, first in the Rockies and Red Sox organizations and then in the independent leagues.
"I had a great experience in professional baseball, the first four years were phenomenal," said Young, whose high point came in 2002 when he made the Rockies' 40-man roster. "After that I battled some injuries, bounced around, played for the Red Sox in 2004 for the Sea Dogs and then a couple of spring trainings after that and finally retired."
An unexpected opportunity
Following his retirement in 2007, Young moved to Texas with his wife and two young kids and settled into family life. In addition to his normal day job, which most recently was as an insurance salesman for Liberty Mutual, he worked as an instructor at the Collin County Baseball Academy in nearby Prosper, Texas.
One of his colleagues there was Ryan Parker, a noted hitting instructor and Baseball Prospectus writer who had gained a following within the professional ranks. During his sessions, Young would frequently help out by throwing batting practice to whoever happened to come by.
This past December, Parker landed a job as a hitting coordinator in the Los Angeles Angels minor league system. Not long after, word started circulating around that the San Diego Padres needed a batting practice specialist.
"They asked Ryan if they knew anyone," Young said. "And he said I have the guy for you."
Parker texted Young and asked him about the potential opportunity, and when the Padres followed up the next day things developed quickly. He was flown out to Seattle, where the team was holding an exhibition series to wrap-up its preseason schedule, and got acquainted with the team. He then flew on the team charter back to San Diego, which he described as an experience all itself, and after a few more sessions was officially offered the position.
Since then, he's been soaking in the big league experience. While it may not have happened in the manner or timeframe he expected, he's finally earned his call to the majors, and he's planning on enjoying every second.
"Opening day in San Diego was phenomenal," Young said. "It was an unbelievable experience, something I'd always dreamed of since I was five, to be with a big league club. It was a dream come true."
Colin Young is a long way from home in San Diego, both from his original hometown of West Newbury and from Texas, where he has lived with his family since his baseball career ended. But one thing that has made the experience more familiar is the presence of Rob Vetere, Young's catcher from Pentucket who now lives in San Diego.
"It's great reconnecting with Rob," Young said. "He was one of my best friends since five, so that's been a neat situation to have him be right there when I make my big league debut as a coach."
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