Hall of Famer and Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski said he never smothered his grandson Mike Yastrzemski with hitting advice growing up. It was more like, "Go out there and have fun." The grandfather figured there was no good sense in piling on the pressure of having one of the most famous last names in major league history. Now 74 years old, Yaz said he was relieved when Mike got drafted in 2013 by the Baltimore Orioles — just so he didn't have to work in the Red Sox system right out of Vanderbilt, where he played in college.
Those factors helped make Sunday even more special for both men, when 23-year-old Mike Yastrzemski made his major league spring debut for the Orioles against the Red Sox at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla. — which happens to be a replica of Boston's Fenway Park. Mike scored Baltimore's first run as a replacement in the sixth inning and played right field for the O's, who won 8-6 with Yastrzemski's grandfather watching from the stands. The Yastrzemski men had shared a conversation and a hug by the batting cage before the game. Via the Associated Press:
"It means a lot,'' the elder Yastrzemski said. ''Just proves that a lot of hard work will take you a long way. He's worked hard all his life. He wanted to be a player and he put the time and effort into it."
Mike Yastrzemski's appearance in a game was helped along by Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who knew that Yastrzemski's famous grandfather had arrived at Red Sox camp to be a spring instructor. Showalter maintained that he wasn't doing anybody any favors, and that Mike Yastrzemski belonged on the travel squad because he's a good prospect. Mike Yastrzemski batted .273/.362/.420 with three home runs, eight stolen bases and no errors made in the outfield in 57 games at low Class A ball for the Orioles in '13. The stats make it sound like he has a chance to advance.
"As I've grown up and gone through more baseball and the experience, I realized I don't get treated any differently. Everyone looks at you as a baseball player rather than the name," Mike Yastrzemski said.
The lives of Yaz and his grandson was made more complicated because of criminal actions allegedly taken by Mike Yastrzemski's father. Michael Yastrzemski died of a heart attack in 2004, but not before he stole Carl Yastrzemski's identity for a time and ran up thousands of dollars in credit card bills. Michael Yastrzemski also had a baseball career in college and the minor leagues, but got only as far as Class AAA in the White Sox organization in 1988. His listed height and weight are the same as those of his son — 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, five heavier than Yaz's listed dimensions.
Despite the father's reported sins, the grandfather-grandson relationship remained close, but it revolved more around fishing than baseball until Mike got to Vanderbilt, Carl Yastrzemski said. The younger Yastrzemski doesn't have the same iconic and exagerrated batting stance of his grandfather, but reportedly there are similarities.
Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in 1967, made 19 All-Star teams and played the Green Monster as well as anyone could. Mike Yastrzemski is just looking for a career in the majors, and he might get one. But he and his grandfather will always have Sunday at jetBlue Park.
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