A year ago, the question lingered as to whether former Vanderbilt player Mike Yastrzemski would ever make it to the major leagues.
Now, he is expected to be the starting center fielder for the San Francisco Giants, and a star for one of baseball’s most tradition-rich teams.
So what happened? It could be one of any number of theories. It could be that the Baltimore Orioles just didn’t know what to do with Yastrzemski, having him six years in the minor leagues in the same system. It could be that off-season workouts at Vanderbilt last year helped him develop into a big-league power hitter. It could be that the Giants represented the proverbial change of scenery that has given numerous players new life in a career.
Most likely it is the result of plain old perseverance. If there is a major league category for never giving up, Yastrzemski may sit at the top of the list.
It’s beyond a Cinderella story. It’s hard to see how Yastrzemski’s name alone didn’t at least get him a cup of coffee in Camden Yards in Baltimore, but for whatever reason the Orioles never promoted him, despite his playing three seasons at Class AAA Norfolk in the International League.
That power stroke he developed between the 2018 and 2019 might have been the decisive step. Prior to 2019, Yastrzemski never hit more than 15 home runs in a season. Yet he hit 12 home runs in just 40 games for the Giants’ AAA team in Sacramento before going to the big-league club and hitting 21 in his rookie season at age 29.
Yastrzemski never lacked for rooters. From Red Sox fans who pulled for him merely because his grandfather was Carl Yastrzemski, the Hall of Fame outfielder, to Vanderbilt supporters who saw him drafted twice as a Commodore, signing the second time with the Orioles as a 14th round pick, to just baseball fans in general. He had the magical name, but the call, and the stardom, eluded him until last season.
After his rookie year batting .272 with 55 RBIs to go with those 21 homers, Yastrzemski is likely not only to start for the Giants but be one of the biggest stars in the lineup.
He has reached stardom, whether it was from hitting three home runs in one game against Arizona, or hitting the home run in Fenway Park last year with his grandfather in attendance.
For obvious reasons, Yastrzemski will never compile career numbers that would mirror the exploits of his grandfather or even stand up against most big-league careers. He will be 30 years old on Aug. 23.
But the pride of Andover, Mass., now has a following in his own right, and the chance to be a regular standout in the major leagues regardless of his name. Time has told the story for Mike Yastrzemski, whose time has finally arrived.