June 21, 2018

Rambling On About My Glory Days: From Yaz to Perco to Ochocinco

November 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Whenever I have a baseball coach’s clinic, I begin with a trivia question, “Who caught the last ball that Carl Yastrzemski ever hit in a major league game?” Not one person has ever answered correctly; until I gave them the hint, “The answer is so obvious, like it is right in front of you.” Every once in a while the “average Joe” (Jack Perconte) gets touched by “greatness” (Carl Yastrzemski). For the young coaches in the audience, I remind them that Yaz was the last player to win the Triple Crown, the league leader in homeruns, RBIs and batting average. What a great achievement, and that Yaz is the last player to do it over 40 years ago, speaks to its remarkable nature. Not to be outdone, I believe I had my own triple crown that year (1967) in little league - league leader in walks, bloop singles and stolen bases. I do not believe anyone could have predicted that 16 years later these two Triple Crown titans would meet in the big leagues. To think that I would be a small footnote in Yaz’s career makes me proud to this day.

Here is how it went down, as the ball went up. I happened to get the start at second base on the last game of the 1983 season for Yaz’s final game. The whole weekend was an experience I will never forget. Fenway Park was electric the entire weekend with rhythmic chants of “Carl Yastrzemski” being sung often. What a feeling that must be to have a packed stadium reciting your name in unison. Just being there to hear and see such a tribute was awesome. I cannot remember what inning it was that Yaz came to bat but it was obvious it was to be his last major league at-bat. Our pitcher, being somewhat nervous I am sure, fell behind 3 & 0. Nobody wanted to see Yaz walk in his final at-bat, including Yaz. On the next pitch, Yaz helped the pitcher out by swinging at the obvious ball 4; but that is what the greats do, they rise to the occasion. The ball rose straight up to me at second base. I caught it and flipped it in so the ball could be saved for history.

So what does Chad Ochocinco have to do with this story? All of these years I have been thinking of things I could have done with the ball after the “great” catch. Maybe I could have had an extra ball in my pocket and made a quick switch before giving the ball up. I believe the best idea may have come from one of Ochocinco’s questionable but entertaining touchdown displays. I could have had a pen in my pocket and signed the ball “To Yaz, Best Wishes, from Perco.” Then at least, somebody would know the answer to the trivia question and I could have been remembered with one of those cool nicknames that everyone knows, like Yaz, Perco and Ocho.

Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction blog that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.netl. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete: How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport

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