FORT MYERS, Fla. - Orioles minor league outfielder Mike Yastrzemski found out yesterday during lunch that he would make the trip to JetBlue Park for today’s exhibition game against the Red Sox, the news coming from director of player development Brian Graham.
Yastrzemski already knew that he’d have a chance to visit with his grandfather, Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, a minor league instructor with the Red Sox. And sure enough, they stood behind the coach during batting practice while photographers and reporters with iPhones captured the moment.
“I knew even before I was coming to spring training that he was going to be down here,” said Mike Yastrzemski. “We had conversations about who was coming down when and he said he’s be down on the 1st or 2nd, so I figured he’d be here.”
Carl was making his first visit to JetBlue Park this spring, which really stirred up the Boston media. He’s not real accessible.
Mike, 23, is one of the reserves today, and manager Buck Showalter will try to get him into the game.
“It means a lot,” Carl 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.”
“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.”
Asked when he first planned on bringing the young Yaz to Fort Myers, Showalter grinned and said, “Three months ago.”
“One, he’s a good player, he’s a prospect,” Showalter said. “He’s been on our JIC (just in case) list. We’ve got a board. I don’t know if you’ve seen it of all the outfielders in mini-camp, all the catchers, all the pitchers.
“He got invited because we think he can be a backup here. Josh (Hart) is here. I brought the paper with me. Brian, sometimes we’ll pick a guy, and he’ll go, ‘Something is wrong with him.’ He’ll listen to suggestions.
“We brought him here not because he’s any kin of Carl, but because he’s a good player. Obviously, if you’re going to take him at some time, it’s a nice little moment for him, and I’m not going to tell you, I didn’t think about it.”
Carl worked with his grandson every Sunday during the kid’s high school years, joining famed hitting coach Walt Hriniak in the tutelage.
“Sometimes, I’m still a little too intense,” he said, “but I’ve learned to mellow out.”
“Every Sunday,” Mike said, “we’d go down to Dave Bettencourt’s place (DB’s Baseball and Softball Instructional Academy). We’d have a great time. He’d give us the keys, if no one’s in, head on in. Just a great time.”
The Orioles selected Mike in the 14th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Vanderbilt, where he got his degree in Crime in Society. In his first professional season, he batted .273/.362/.420 with 13 doubles, four triples, three homers and 25 RBIs in 57 games with short-season Single-A Aberdeen.
“I think he has a shot because he has the desire and determination. That can take you a long way,” Carl said. “He’s always worked hard and you can’t rule that out as being a big factor.”
Grandfather and grandson have a similar stance, “but he lets go of the bat,” Carl said. “We were talking about that a little while ago. I said, ‘Make sure you hold on. Don’t let go too early.’ And I told him to take a couple swings with two hands on the bat.”
What advice has Carl offered his grandson?
“Go out, swing the bat and have fun,” he replied.
Said Mike: “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.”
Despite the baseball roots that run so deep, Mike said they have a “normal” grandfather-grandson relationship.
“We talk about a lot of other stuff,” he said. “Fishing, baseball, golf. It’s all good.”
Carl said it worked out better for Mike that he didn’t sign with the Red Sox. The Yastrzemski name isn’t just long, it brings heavy expectations in the Boston area.
“I think if he would have signed with the Red Sox, it would have been too much pressure on him,” Carl said. “He likes the Baltimore organization. They’re a great organization, so he’s very happy there.”
Mike may have felt that way earlier on, but not anymore. He intends to make his own way.
“As I’ve grown up and gone through more baseball and the experience, I realize that I don’t get treated any differently,” he said. “Everyone looks at you as a baseball player rather than the name.”
Notes: Catcher Michael Ohlman also has a wart on his hand and was supposed to accompany Brian Matusz to Philadelphia on Monday to have it removed, but the pending storm up north changed those plans. It will have to wait.
“One-stop shopping,” Showalter said. “Just going to put it on hold until the weather clears.”
Showalter repeated that Matusz won’t miss a spring outing.
Alfredo Aceves will throw one inning on Monday, take off a couple days, throw two innings, take off two or three days and throw three innings.
“His plan is kind of mapped out,” Showalter said.
Showalter said he’s not concerned about Alexi Casilla’s hamstring injury. Not yet, anyway.
“It would be different if we didn’t have prior knowledge of it, and it would be different if he had some additional things, but he hasn’t had trouble with it,” Showalter said. “One of the things he’s been able to do is stay healthy with us.”