I’m sure there are many cool baseball stories this season of which I’m unaware. However, I doubt that any of them is as cool as the one I’m about to discuss.
Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of the great Carl Yastrzemski, hit a home run in his first appearance at Fenway Park in Boston, where Carl excelled for 23 seasons. Mike was playing for the visiting San Francisco Giants.
The elder Yastrzemski toured the field with his grandson before the game. He provided tips on how to play balls hit off of left-field wall (the Green Monster). Many say that no one played them better than Carl.
Then, in the fourth inning, Mike hit a home run, not over the Green Monster, but to straightaway center field. It was his 20th home run of the season. The Fenway Park crowd showed its appreciation with robust applause for the opposition player.
Mike Yastrzemski is a 29 year-old rookie. He toiled in the minor leagues for six years prior to this season, which he also started in the minors.
Nothing in those six years suggested to me that Mike Yastrzemski was headed for the majors, much less for a 20 home run season in “the show.” But this season, Mike lit up the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, thus earning a call-up with the Giants.
Even with this year’s Sacramento stats, his career minor league batting average is .263 with an on-base plus slugging percentage of .782. His minor league home run total is a 73 in six-plus years. These are the numbers of a decent minor league outfielder, not a potential big leaguer in his late 20s.
That’s why the Baltimore Orioles, in whose organization Yastrzemski had spent his entire career, released him at the end of last season, during which the O’s were the worst team in baseball. (This year, as things stand now, they are the second worst). Through it all, Carl Yastrzemski was a constant source of encouragement and inspiration to his grandson.
Of his long unusual road to the big leagues, Mike Yastrzemski said:
Through the long path it took me to get here, I started to understand which things are important and which aren’t so I could stay focused on the things that have really grown to matter and the story that needs to unfold here. It’s special for my family and my grandfather as opposed to keeping it on me.
Dreams play a huge role in baseball, both for players and for fans. More often than not, the dreams are dashed. But when, as with Mike Yastrzemski, they become real, players have an extra reason to keep pushing and the rest of us to keep dreaming.