NYPL notes: Young 'Yaz' up to the task

Aberdeen outfielder undaunted by expectations, recognition

Mike Yastrzemski is hitting .300 with three homers in 38 games. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

By Craig Forde / Special to MiLB.com | August 16, 2013 6:00 AM ET

It's impossible to see the last name and not think of greatness, but Aberdeen's Mike Yastrzemski is up to the task of being "Yaz."

Of course, being the grandson of Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski has had many expecting the young outfielder to simply be what his grandfather once was, but the 21-year-old outfielder has blazed his own trail while not letting any expectations mold him.

"It's a little scary, but that's the whole point," said Yastrzemski. "It's a new experience, and you try to come out here and prove yourself and prove not only to yourself but to other people that you are able to play here."

Drafted in the 36th round out of St. John's Prep High School (Mass.) in 2009 by the very same team with which Carl spent 23 years, Mike opted to honor his commitment to Vanderbilt University.

While many college players who are drafted after their junior season choose to leave school, Mike, taken by the Mariners in the 30th round in 2012, opted to return for his senior season.

Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said on the team's website: "Our program got a lot better when Michael decided to bypass the Major League Draft and come back to school. He's a winning kid and player ... smart, savvy and very team-oriented."

Mike backed that statement by guiding the Commodores to another 54-win season and their second SEC Championship in three years, and after being selected by Baltimore in the 14th round this past June, young Yaz was finally ready to begin his journey as a pro.

"I gained a lot of maturity," Yastrzemski said of his extra year with Vanderbilt. "There was a lot to my game that still had to be improved and a lot to my personality that I feel I had to build on.

"That team really helped me grow, and I had a lot of fun being there. If I could take another four years there, I would."

Soon after he landed in Aberdeen, he quickly acclimated himself to his new surroundings and immediately thrived in yet another winning environment. Through his first 37 games, Yastrzemski has batted .310 with 16 RBIs and 18 runs scored as Aberdeen soared to the top of the McNamara Division while Mike was named to the All-Star team.

Ranking fifth in the league with a .469 slugging percentage and .405 on-base percentage, Yastrzemski's knack for hitting and getting on base is reminiscent of his namesake.

"I'm living with a great host family that has helped me out a lot," said Yastrzemski. "Being able to show up to a beautiful ballpark with a lot of great guys and a great staff is fun. We've got a great fan base, and they make it worth it. They make it easy."

He's also shown that defense is a big part of his game, not yielding an error in 80 chances in the outfield and flashing a solid arm that has accounted for seven assists this year.

Named as a starter for the American League at Tuesday's NYPL All-Star Game in Norwich, Conn., he put his defense on display by throwing out State College's Steven Ramos from right field to end the third inning, delighting the friends and family who made the trek from Massachusetts.

"Being able to be close to home, get some family down here and play in front of them, it's incredible," said Yastrzemski of the experience. "It's an honor to be here."

That trip will be cut down considerably when the Ironbirds pull into Lowell, just a 14-mile drive from Mike's hometown of Andover, for the team's first series there Aug 24-26.

Asked whether he was already looking ahead to the return trip home, he exuberantly stated, "Absolutely. There will be a lot of family there."

It will be the first time in 30 years that a "Yaz" will be playing professional baseball in Massachusetts, and with the career path that Mike has taken thus far, he could someday graze on the same outfield grass that his grandfather patrolled.

In brief

Gregor the 'Cat: After going hitless in his first three at-bats Wednesday, Tri-City first baseman Conrad Gregor shook off the rust of the All-Star break with an eighth-inning single to extend his hitting streak to eight games. The reigning New York-Penn League Player of the Week has 16 hits and a .432 average over that span. During his streak, he has nine RBIs, seven runs scored and five multi-hit games. It's the second time this season that the Astros' 2013 fourth-rounder has hit safely in eight straight games.

Home is where the wins are: After losing three of four on the road heading into the All-Star break, the State College Spikes were happy to return to the friendly confines of Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, where a 2-1 victory over Mahoning Valley on Wednesday extended their record home winning streak to 10 games. The Spikes are a league-best 20-6 at home this season and in contention for the first playoff bid in State College's eight-year history.

Running with Roy: With a .311 slugging percentage, Jamestown's Jeff Roy may seem harmless enough to the competition. But that figure doesn't account for speed and heads-up base running as the University of Rhode Island product has turned his singles into extra bases in a flash, swiping a league-high 22 bases on 26 attempts. The NYPL All-Star has been successful on 13 of his last 14 attempts and has scored 27 runs while sitting in one of the top two slots in the Jammers order.

Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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