March 31, 2011
By Andrew Woerpel
ALBUQUERQUE - Every young, up-and-coming baseball player has dreams of one day stepping onto a major league diamond to play the game they love. For former New Mexico Lobo baseball player Matt Young, that dream is just one step away as he found out he was going to be an Atalnta Brave come opening day.
"It was all kind of a blur," Young said about finding out he made the big league club. "Skip called me into the office, but I don't remember what he said exactly. I just kind of had my head down and was smiling the whole time."
Young has come a long way in his short career, going from being an undrafted free agent out of UNM in 2004 to a player on a big league roster.
"Everyone gets their time," Young said. "I happened to be an undrafted free agent, so I had to grind it out. It's more satisfying to me now that I'm here."
That grind it out style is exactly what caught the eye of the Braves front office and coaching staff. In 2009, the speedy Young hit .289 with 42 stolen bases for the Double-A Mississippi Braves. He had similar success in 2010 with the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves, hitting .300 with 39 stolen bases.
During spring camp this season, Young was locked in a battle with fellow out fielder Joe Mather-claimed off waivers from St. Louis in November. Before spring training started, Mather was expected to make the team as a backup at the corner outfield and infield positions. When Mather hit just .145 during the spring, it opened the door for Young. Young took full advantage.
Young finished spring ball batting .255 with five RBIs, seven runs scored and an on base percentage of .368. He is slated to be Nate McLouth's backup in center field and serve as the team's fourth out fielder.
The former Freshman All-American and First Team All-MWC selection was very humbled when asked what had got him to this point in his career.
"I have to give a lot of credit to my family for helping me out," Young said. "It's a testament to who they are for sticking with me through my career."
Young also credits UNM for helping him mature as a person. Young said he learned how to be on his own during his tenure as a Lobo.
"Being away from home for the first time helped me at New Mexico," Young recalled. "It took all three years and then some to understand how to do things for myself. I learned how to grow up away from the field while at UNM."
Young was a standout during his playing career at UNM. As a freshman he led the MWC in on-base percentage (.498) and tied for the lead in walks with 42. He was the team leader in runs (64), hit-by-pitch (9) and stolen bases (17). He also reached base safely in all but one game during the 2002 season. Young was stellar off the field as well, being named Academic All-Conference with a 3.2 GPA.
As a sophomore in 2003, Young led the MWC in walks with 54 and runs with 76. He batted .320 with one homer, 25 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He was also a solid defensive player, boasting a .975 fielding percentage and 22 assists. Young also earned academic all-conference for the second time in as many years.
In his final season as a junior in 2004, Young hit for the second-best average in his career at .381. He led the nation in triples with 12 and became the fifth player in UNM history to record 200 hits and 200 runs for his career. He also led the team in runs (60), Triples (12), Walks (37), stolen bases (16) and tied for the team lead in sacrifice hits (4).
Young watched from the dugout as the Braves won their season opener 2-0 over the Washington Nationals on opening day. He did not play, but Young awaits his chance, knowing he is one giant step closer to living out his dream.