Mike Yastrzemski doesn’t hide from his famous name, but his time finally has come to make one for himself.
The 28-year-old grandson of Hall of Famer and legendary Long Island product Carl Yastrzemski made it to the major leagues last week and made an immediate impact with the Giants, blasting his first career home run Friday against Baltimore.
That leaves him 451 behind his grandpa, who played 23 seasons with the Red Sox from 1961 to 1983. The elder Yaz accumulated 3,419 hits — eighth on the all-time list — and won the Triple Crown and AL MVP honors for the Red Sox in 1967.
“It’s something you grew up with and I don’t get fazed by it at this point in my life,” Mike Yastrzemski said before playing leftfield Tuesday night against the Mets at Citi Field. “I got used to it pretty early, and the older I got I understood what the name meant to people and the reason why everyone would feel a need to ask questions about it.
“I understand that. I take it all with a grain of salt and just kind of keep plugging along.”
Mike Yastrzemski originally was drafted by Boston out of St. John’s Prep High School in Danvers, Massachusetts, in the 36th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. He instead attended Vanderbilt and was selected again — by the Orioles — in the 14th round in 2013. The outfielder spent six seasons in Baltimore’s minor-league system before a trade to the Giants in March.
After posting a 1.090 OPS for Triple-A Sacramento to start this season, Yastrzemski was called up on May 25. He enjoyed a three-hit game against Arizona one night later and then tripled and ripped a game-tying homer Friday against Baltimore, his former organization.
“It’s been awesome, it’s been an incredible experience, being able to finally get to Camden Yards. Playing in front of some family and having this East Coast trip has been definitely special,” Yastrzemski said.
Carl Yastrzemski, who splits time between Massachusetts and Florida, hasn’t seen his grandson play live yet in the majors, but the two have spoken by phone a several times since Mike’s debut.
“I think he’s pretty comfortable on his couch. He’s not much of a traveler anymore,” Mike said. “I think he’s set up with all the [MLB TV] packages, my aunts have hooked him up with that. Good or bad, he doesn’t miss anything. But mostly he stays out of the way. He doesn’t want me to feel any extra pressure or anything like that.
“We do talk hitting, too, but a lot of times it’s brief and it’s more me asking him how he’s swinging the golf clubs or how the fish are biting.”
The younger Yaz recalled attending several games at Fenway Park when his grandfather threw out ceremonial first pitches over the years, as well as getting to work during spring trainings with the likes of Jim Rice, Dwight Evans and Luis Tiant. He also took a trip when he was 12 with his father, Carl Jr., to Cooperstown for a Little League tournament.
“We didn’t say anything, we didn’t tell anyone from the Hall of Fame that we were going, no special treatment,” Mike said. “We just walked around the museum like everybody else did. It was really special and really cool to see [his plaque] on the wall.”
Carl Yastrzemski, 79, grew up on his father’s potato farm and graduated in a class of 18 students from Bridgehampton High School in 1957, according to a 2017 Newsday story. He had been the lone Long Island product to gain entry into the Hall of Fame until Craig Biggio was elected in 2015.
“That’s the easiest reason why I don’t try to live up to that. Just because of how special it was,” Mike said. “I’ve never felt pressure in that sense, just because of how impressive his career was. Honestly, I’m just trying to do my own thing.”