Becoming a major league baseball player takes not only extraordinary skill but resolve and good fortune —being in the right place at the right time.
For a long time, it seems probably too long, Michael Yastrzemski was in the wrong place, languishing in the minor leagues — until a circuitous turn of events landed him in a stadium filled with fans.
Yastrzemski’s famous grandfather took decidedly different path.
Carl Yastrzemski was born in Bridgehampton to Carl Yastrzemski Sr. and the former Hattie Skonieczny. He became a local legend as a schoolboy, an athlete who excelled in every sport but was a phenom in a least two, basketball and baseball.
A deadly shooter, Carl broke Jim Brown’s county scoring record as a basketball player. But it was as a baseball player that young Carl really turned heads. By all accounts, he was the best player in the history of Eastern Long Island, and he was pursued by every major college in the country and courted by every major league baseball team.
Yaz went to Notre Dame on a basketball scholarship before signing with the Red Sox. He was in the big leagues by 1961. Within two years he had blossomed, becoming one of the best players in the American League.
Yastrzemski enjoyed his best season in 1967, when he won the American League Triple Crown with a .326 batting average, 44 home runs (tied with Harmon Killebrew) and 121 RBIs. He is a member of the Hall of Fame.
Mike, on the other hand, languished in the Baltimore system, bottoming out in Bowie where he hit only .202. At the age of 27, with players 10 years younger pushing for his roster spot, he was traded to Baltimore.
The Orioles invited Yastrzemski to spring training as a non-roster player. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants and assigned to the Sacramento River Cats of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League to start the 2019 season.
The Giants promoted Yastrzemski to the Major Leagues on May 25, 2019, and he made his debut the same day, going 0-3 with a run scored in a 10-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He collected his first career hit, a single, the following day, but was thrown out returning to first base and went 3-4 with a run scored in the Giants’ 6-2 loss.
Yastrzemski hit his first career home run off Andrew Cashner on May 31 and took over the centerfield starting job. He’s held it ever since.
Right now he’s hitting .243 but the left-handed hitter (like his grandfather) has hit five homers in 111 at bats. “He’s still learning” his manager Bruce Bochy said after Yastrzemski’s base-running gaffe cost the team a win. Still, he’s been in the lineup every day since. “He won’t do it again,” Bochy said. “We’re going to get him some at bats.”