FORT MYERS, Fla. — Orioles manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette knew there was a baseball moment — even a life moment — that needed to happen. A moment a grandfather and a grandson could share.
So they brought 23-year-old Michael Yastrzemski on the trip from Orioles spring training camp in Sarasota to Fort Myers, knowing that his granddad, Carl Yastrzemski, the Hall of Fame No. 8 of the Red Sox, would be there, too.
Mike Yastrzemski got into Sunday’s game in the sixth inning as a pinch runner for Francisco Peguero and scored the first Orioles run in an 8-6 Red Sox win.
He fielded a ball in right field and made a strong throw to second base. In the eighth, he grounded to shortstop. In the ninth, he walked and he made a nice headfirst slide into third base.
Mike Yastrzemski was a star at St. John’s Prep in Danvers and Vanderbilt University, where he earned a degree in crime in society. He was drafted by the Red Sox in the 36th round in 2009, and then by the Mariners in the 30th round in 2012, but he stayed at Vanderbilt and became a 14th-round pick of the Orioles in 2013.
Carl Yastrzemski is happy his grandkid didn’t join the Red Sox.
“Without a doubt,” Carl said. “I think if he had signed, there would have been a lot of pressure. He likes Baltimore and he’s with a great organization. We also have one of our former Red Sox Triple A managers, RJ [Ron Johnson], taking care of him.”
As Mike looked around JetBlue Park before the game, he said he was hoping he would get into the game.
“It would be great,” Mike said. “To be able to play at a replica Fenway in spring training, first time being at a big-league camp, it would be real special.”
Mike Yastrzemski has never been handed anything. He’s got skills, but not Carl Yastrzemski skills. If he makes it to the majors it’s because he’s fought and scrapped for everything. Life hasn’t always been that great for him, either. He lost his father, Michael, in 2004 after the 44-year-old suffered a heart attack after complications from hip surgery.
The death shattered Carl Yastrzemski and it made him more determined to help his grandson, who was only in the eighth grade when the tragedy occurred.
“It just proves that a lot of hard work can take you a long way. Put the time in,” Carl said.
At Aberdeen last season, Mike hit .273 with three homers and 25 RBIs.
The outfielder hit .367 against lefthanded pitchers. It’ll be interesting to see how far he gets.
“I think he has a shot because he has the desire and determination and that can take you a long way,” Carl said.
Carl had a distinctive stance, and he said while his grandson doesn’t quite hold the bat the same way, there are similarities.
“A little bit [the same] when he lets go of the bat,” said Carl, referring to the influence of batting coach Walt Hriniak. “We were talking about that a little while ago. Make sure you hold on. Don’t take it off too early. A lot of people thought I was way up here. I was always top hand near my ear. So many hitters held the bat lower — that’s why I stood out — but guys now hold it much higher.”
He loved the times they got together to work on hitting.
“A lot, I used to work with him all the time in high school,” Carl said. “Every Sunday, we’d go down to Dave Bettencourt’s place [an instructional academy in North Andover]. We’d have a great time. He’d give us the keys, if no one’s in, head on in. Just a great time.”
Mike had always heard the stories about his grandfather. He had to live up to that for a while, but he knew he had to make it on his own merits.
“At the time, yeah, but as I’ve grown up and gone through more baseball and the experience, I realize that I don’t get treated any differently,” Mike said. “Everyone looks at you as a baseball player rather than the name.”
He’s never watched too much of his grandfather’s career, but he wished he’d seen the Triple Crown season in 1967.
He just wants Yaz to be his granddad and Yaz wants him to be his grandson. Proud? They both were gushing with pride Sunday.
“He tells me to be myself and go out there and have fun and hit the ball hard because you can’t do anything after you hit it,” Mike said.
Mike used to go fishing with Carl, who was asked, who was the better fisherman?
“He was, for sure,” said Carl.
You knew he’d answer it that way.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.