BOSTON (AP) – For the first time in more than three decades, there was a “Yaz” patrolling left field in a big-league game at Fenway Park.
San Francisco’s Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Red Sox legend and Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, trotted out there when the Giants faced the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.
The 29-year-old Yastrzemski knew the night would be special. His grandfather played left in the final game of his career – Oct. 2, 1983 – a position where he won seven Gold Gloves, playing in front of the fabled Green Monster.
“For life,” he told the media, sitting in the dugout about 4 Â½ hours before the game when asked when he thought about playing his first game in Fenway. “It’s always a dream to play here when you’re a kid growing up in New England.”
Before he talked to the media, the younger and older Yaz chatted together as they walked Fenway’s outfield.
“It was awesome,” Mike said. “We got a chance to catch up. I normally don’t get a chance to see him during the season, so that’s a bonus.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided it was fitting for him to play left.
“He’s played left a lot. To be honest, I wanted to have him play left field tonight,” he said. “It’s going to be a cool moment for a lot of people here. It’s going to be a great reminder of a lot of things his grandfather did and bring some special memories to peoples’ mind.”
He got a nice ovation when he batted leadoff to open the game and finished 2 for 7 with a double, solo homer, walk and three strikeouts in the Giants’ 7-6 win in 15 innings.
Carl, who turned 80 in August, played his entire 23-year career with the Red Sox, retiring in 1983 with 3,419 hits, including 452 homers and over 1,800 RBIs. In 1967, he won the AL MVP after capturing the Triple Crown.
He was inducted into the Hall in 1989 and the Red Sox dedicated a statue of him outside the right-field entrance in 2013.
Growing up about 30 miles north of Fenway, Mike didn’t realize the impact his grandfather had on Red Sox fans and the type of legend he was until high school.
“I was probably in the middle of high school; 15, 16 when I started to understand what he had done was so special and the career he had,” he said. “When I turned 23, that was kind of the big shocking moment that for my entire life he had showed up to Fenway Park every day. That kind of blew my mind.”
So, what did the newest Yaz learn from his grandfather about playing left?
“His advice is: Take balls in BP because no fungo is going to simulate the ball that’s going to be hit live if it’s hit off that wall,” he said.
And what other advice did he get?
“To not be anybody different than the guy that got me here,” he said.
Mike played in Baltimore’s organization for six years before he was traded to San Francisco in March. He entered the night hitting .265 with 19 homers and 51 RBIs.
He knows he’ll have plenty of memories from his first game in Fenway.
“It’s the best,” he said. “Everybody dreams about going home and playing in their hometown. To be here and make this trip is special.”
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