It's chilly inside D.B.'s Baseball and Softball Facility, tucked behind the old Lucent Technology building on Route 125 in North Andover, but Michael Yastrzemski is here, as he is every Sunday, taking 200 or so cuts in the batting cage.
The young Yastrzemski, an Andover resident and St. John's Prep senior, watches a pitch go by without swinging.
About 10 feet away, directly behind the netting, his famous grandfather, Carl Yastrzemski, watches intently
"That's fantastic!" shouts Yaz. "That was a ball. Great job. Great job, Michael."
The 5-foot-11-inch, 175-pounder, batting left-handed just like his grandfather, lines the next pitch into the netting to his right.
"I like what I'm seeing," Yaz says. "I like what I see, Michael."
Yaz is a new man these days, with new energy and new enthusiasm for the baseball career of his grandson, who just won a scholarship to play for Vanderbilt.
Captain Carl's full head of hair is now pure white, but he's about 20 pounds thinner than he's been for most of the last decade. He's quit smoking his two packs a day and cut his consumption of beer.
"Instead of four beers, I'll have two," he said.
There is good reason for his new-found discipline. His life depends on it, doctors have told him.
Last Aug. 19, three days before his 69th birthday, Yaz woke with "a little pain in my chest."
"But I thought it was just heartburn or something like that," he said. "I went fishing up at Plum Island, like I usually do, from about 8 until 2. I took some Tums, but it didn't help. When I got home, I knew it was something worse."
His wife, Nancy, drove him to the hospital. That night, the Hall of Famer underwent six hours of triple bypass surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"It was definitely a wake-up call," said Yaz. "You realize a lot of things when you're sitting in a hospital bed and you can't do anything. You realize how lucky you are to be alive. I feel very fortunate. You realize the importance of your family."
Which brings us back to D.B.'s Baseball and Softball facility in North Andover.
Yaz is connecting with not only his grandson, but also his late son Michael, the father of young Michael.
"Michael worked his tail off as a kid, just like (young) Michael," said Yaz. "Personally, I thought he was too small to play any place other than a small college. But he ends up going to Florida State and has a hell of a career there."
That he did. Twenty-five years later, Yaz's son still holds the Florida State record for games played at 279 and is in the top 10 in seven other categories.
He surprised his dad even more, making it to the Chicago White Sox Triple-A affiliate before calling it a career.
"He was a lot like me. He didn't have all the physical tools," said Yaz. "But nobody loved the game more. He earned everything he got. I think his size probably hurt him in the long run."
Continuing his father's work
Grandson Michael is a true Yastrzemski. He shows no emotion as he takes batting practice and his grandfather cheers him on.
Inside, though, the words from his grandfather can make a cold baseball facility feel like a summer afternoon.
"He gives you a compliment when you deserve one," said Michael. "That's why I like when he works with me. He tells me the truth. If I'm doing something wrong, he says it. Sometimes he's tough on me. But I like that."
Said Yaz: "I don't take credit for young Michael. It was his father. This is a continuation of his father's work. He taught him the mechanics. He worked with him a lot when he was younger. He did a good job with Michael."
Yaz's son and Michael's dad, Carl "Michael" Yastrzemski Jr., died in September 2004 at the age of 44 from complications following a hip surgery. To put that in perspective, Yaz was 44 when he retired from baseball.
There's a palpable sense of regret that Michael's dad is not around the batting cage with Yaz and his grandson as young Michael pursues a collegiate career — and potentially a professional one.
"Yes, that would have been so nice," said young Michael's mom, Anne Marie Yastrzemski. "Baseball is obviously important to all of them."
'It's in his genes'
Michael already weighs as much as his dad did at Florida State. With a stringent strength and conditioning program, he is expected to be between 180 and 185 pounds by spring.
"Michael is not only bigger, but he has more talent," said Yaz. "He's ahead of where his dad was. He's got a better arm, speed and power."
But he shares his late dad's desire, discipline and love of baseball.
"I see my son when I see Michael," said Yaz. "They are a lot alike. They both shared a passion for this game. They're both disciplined. They're both very coachable... Yeah, this has been good for me, too."
Young Michael's mom says the connection between her son and his grandfather has grown deeper in recent years.
"Without having a father around, I think it means more to Michael," said Anne Marie Yastrzemski, who spent Thanksgiving with her son at Yaz's home in Boxford. "They are very close now. They have that connection through baseball. It's even more of a gift that he can't get with his dad anymore.
"It's also been great outside of baseball," she said. "They have a regular grandfather-grandson relationship. They talk about the Patriots, players on the Red Sox, fishing, and other things. It's really cool."
But baseball is the special bond if your name is "Yastrzemski."
"When Michael was a baby, my father (longtime Andover Selectman Charlie Wesson) brought a football, basketball, soccer ball and baseball to the house and put them all in the crib," said Ann Marie. "Michael always picked up the baseball first. Always. I guess it's in his genes."
Bill Burt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.