WASHINGTON -- First baseman Dmitri Young sat in the Nationals' dugout with a big smile on his face. It has nothing to do with the fact that he is swinging a hot bat. It's about how lucky he is to have a father like Larry Young.

Dmitri calls his father his role model. Larry, 55, had a successful military career and is currently an airline pilot for Delta Airlines.

"My dad being a pilot is one of the coolest things," Dmitri said.

But having a successful father is not what sticks out with Dmitri. The oldest of four kids, Dmitri said Larry always had his back during the good and bad times. For example, after having his worst season in baseball in 2006, which included getting released by the Tigers, being put on probation for domestic violence and finding out that he had Type 2 diabetes, Dmitri thought seriously about retiring. He was planning to drive his camper and watch his siblings play sports.

But it was Larry who talked Dmitri out of retirement and told him to think about the his three children and that he still had a lot of baseball left in him.

"He was there when I had the problems last year," he said. "He was very supportive. He helped me rebuild myself. When I was in Detroit, he said, 'Take care of what you have to take care of. Take it one day at a time. Get out of there and make sure you change yourself.' And he told me to think about my kids. Think about how you want them to be brought up.

"As people, we makes mistakes. But it's the way you adapt from it, how you come back from it. He made sure that I came back."

Dmitri took his father's words to heart. After signing a Minor League contract with the Nationals in February, Dmitri lost weight, became a mentor to the Minor Leaguers in the team's accelerated camp and now is a positive influence in the Major League clubhouse. Dmitri also is doing well on the field. He is leading Washington in batting and on-base percentage as Father's Day approaches.

All it took were words from Larry to get Dmitri back on track.

"He made sure that I didn't quit," Dmitri said. "He always stayed on me. He asked how I was doing. That in itself was my driving force. This is not lip service. This is right from the hip. The game became fun again. Life became fun again."