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December 5, 2008

Gleam is back in Yaz's eyes as grandson pursues baseball career

Yaz's grandson pursues baseball career; tutored by grandfather

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.

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