Michael Young proud of his roots

Michael Young proud of his roots

By Tim MacMahon, ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- His Hispanic roots are somewhat hidden by his light skin tone and surname.

Make no mistake, however. Former UC Santa Barbara standout Michael Young is extremely proud of his Mexican-American heritage.

"In a lot of ways, I relate to it more," said Young, who grew up in Southern California as the son of a Caucasian father and Hispanic mother. "My dad's family, for the most part, was in Nevada when I was a kid, so I was with my mom's family all the time. With Mexican families, you're together almost daily -- baptisms, first communions, birthday parties, whatever the case may be. You're together all the time. I've been hearing Spanish since the day I was born.

"I'm very proud of where I've come from."

Young has become the face of the Texas Rangers franchise over the past decade, a remarkably consistent hitter who is widely recognized as a leader in the clubhouse. He traces his success and stature directly to his upbringing.

"Who I am today comes from a product of where I came from as a kid and the people I grew up with," said Young, a seven-time All-Star and the franchise's all-time hits leader.

Young, whose mother's maiden name is Pedroza, grew up in a boxing family. Some of his uncles were boxing trainers. Several of his cousins were fighters, including former WBO junior welterweight champion Zachary Padilla and ex-pro Johnny Chavez.

Those cousins were much older than Young, and he jokes that they took it easy on him. Young chose batting gloves over boxing gloves as a kid, but he's always been a big boxing fan and was heavily influenced by his family's involvement in the sport.

"It was definitely much more of a way for me to relate it to baseball because, even as a kid, baseball was my No. 1 passion," Young said. "In boxing, the thing that separates fighters is character and desire. I was able to kind of use that to my credit in baseball. I learned that at a really, really young age."

Young believes his heritage helps him relate to all his teammates, especially the ones from Latin America. He isn't fluent in Spanish, but he understands it well and speaks enough to get his point across to those teammates.

Young's wife, former high school sweetheart Cristina Barbosa, is fluent in Spanish and frequently speaks it to their sons, 6-year-old Mateo and soon-to-be 3-year-old Emilio. She pushes Young to improve his Spanish.

"He definitely understands more than he speaks," said Barbosa, whose mother was born in Mexico. "Sometimes I think it's strategic so he can get all the inside jokes between his Latino teammates."

More than anything, Young thinks growing up in a tight-knit extended family developed the kind of loyalty that plays well in clubhouses. He cites that bond with uncles, aunts, cousins, as his favorite part of the Mexican culture.

"Everything revolves around family," said Young, who has had a couple of well-publicized issues with general manager Jon Daniels but is beloved by teammates. "There's a saying with Mexican families: Miserables pero juntos. Miserable but together. It's a figure of speech. You're not going to find anybody that's miserable, but the whole point is that everybody is together. Win, lose or draw, we're a family, we're in this together."

That's Young's philosophy with his own family. He and his wife also extend that philosophy to the Latino community.

The Michael Young Family Hispanic Scholarship Program is one of Young's many charitable endeavors. It was created in 2010 and awards college scholarships for three Hispanic students each year.

"We wanted to be able to provide opportunities for kids who come from similar backgrounds," Young said. "There are a lot of kids out there who we share something with even before we meet. We want to be able to provide opportunities for Latino students, and it's something we hope to grow in the future. We're really proud of that."

Young wants to be a role model for the Latino community. He hopes Hispanic children identify him as one of their own.

"It's not so much what your last name is," Barbosa said. "It's more about a cultural identity."

Tim MacMahon is a reporter for ESPNDallas.com.

UCSB celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. Click here for more information.