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Professional baseball player Carl Yastrzemski is regarded as one of the greatest defensive left fielders in Red Sox history.
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Athlete, baseball player. Carl Michael Yastrzemski was born on August 22, 1939, in Bridgehampton, New York, a small working-class town on Long Island with a population of fewer than 3,000. His father was a potato farmer, and aside from selling potatoes for market, the Yastrzemskis were almost entirely self-sufficient: They cultivated their own vegetable garden and slaughtered their own cattle for meat. Carl Yastrzemski began working on the family farm at a very young age, passing his after-school hours lifting heavy sacks of potatoes onto tractor carts. "I used to love those little sacks," he recalls fondly. "Christ, I was like 12 years old, picking those things up. Seventy-five pounds. I kept saying to myself—and this is why I loved it—this is going to help me get strong, help me make it to the big leagues. It was going to help me in baseball."
Yastrzemski was addicted to baseball from the time he was big enough to swing a bat and throw a ball—a passion he inherited from his father. In fact, according to Carl Yastrzemski, his father was a far more talented athlete than he ever was. Delivering his induction speech to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989, Yastrzemski painted this portrait of his father: "Take my father. Super athlete himself. Possessing all the talent and dedication needed to make the big leagues but living at the time of the Depression. He had to suppress his own desires in order that his family could survive and prosper so he worked and labored toward that end. If ever there's living proof that some people make sacrifices for others it's my dad."
Perhaps ironically, considering his later status as a Boston Red Sox legend, Yastrzemski grew up a New York Yankees fan. Several times a season, he and his father would make the 200-mile round trip to the Bronx to see the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle play at Yankee Stadium. And every minute that he wasn't in school or working on the farm, Yastrzemski practiced baseball. He took a bat with him when he went out to do his farm work, and upon finishing he'd fill up a bucket with rocks and practice hitting them out across the fields. He also hung a baseball by a string from the ceiling of the family garage, and each night he took hundreds of practice swings before and after dinner.
Yastrzemski attended Bridgehampton High School, where he was a star athlete on the baseball, basketball and football teams. He posted a career batting average of .512 at Bridgehampton High, and during his senior year he set a conference record by scoring 628 points for the basketball team. It was also during his senior year that Yastrzemski's biggest childhood dream came true: a New York Yankees scout showed up at his front door and offered him a $60,000 contract.
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