Yaz Family Tournament Gives Northeast Kids Better Chance to Play Ball


Aug 12, 2009

As a young ballplayer growing up in New England with the same last name as a Red Sox legend, it’s easy to attract the attention of professional scouts and college recruiters. But for kids who don’t have that advantage, it may be a little more difficult to draw notice, compared to those who play outside year-round in Florida, Arizona, California and other warmer climes.

“After my son went to the Area Code Games [an elite invitational tournament] last year, I thought about all the kids that missed being looked at in New England,” said Anne-Marie Yastrzemski, daughter-in-law of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski.  “And I thought, 'Why doesn’t New England have more of a showcase? We don’t have enough in this area.'”

So, last year, with the help of her father-in-law, Red Sox scout Ray Fagnant and Yankees scout Matt Hyde, she began organizing a tournament for players in the Northeast. The result is the Summer Rivalry Baseball Classic Invitational, which begins Wednesday at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., with two days of games culminating in an All-Star Game on Sunday morning at Fenway Park.

“What it will do is give area kids another chance to be seen,” Fagnant said. “[Scouts are] running around every day that there’s no snow on the ground from February to October. So it’s a good opportunity to get a look at kids that we might not get to see. And, just as importantly,  there’s so many showcases nowadays that are run by amateur people that have no other interest than to make money. They charge kids ridiculous amounts of money to participate in them on the promise that there will be a large number of major league scouts and college recruiters and everything, and that’s just not the case, despite the fact that the kids paid so much money, $500, $600,  $700 to play in one- or two-day things.

“This is what it should be. It’s free, and it’s a good opportunity to be seen. They get a good workout and, a lot of these kids, it’ll help them maybe get a college scholarship somewhere.”

Anne-Marie’s son, Mike, graduated from St. John’s Prep, in Danvers, Mass., in the spring and was selected by the Red Sox in the 27th round of this year’s draft. Instead of turning pro, he decided to take his game to Vanderbilt University.

Mike – along with another of Carl’s grandsons, Tim Kensinger, who will be a sophomore at Boston College High School — will be among the more than 80 players from New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have been invited to the tournament. Most of the players are high school juniors and seniors.

“We submitted a list, guys that we know are already some of the better guys,” Fagnant said. “It’ll give us a second look. In addition, we submit names of some guys that were recommended to us by reputable sources that we didn’t get a chance to see. And the remaining players we left it to Anne-Marie, because she had a couple people helping her out, a couple of local coaches that probably actually know the players a little bit better because they’re coaching them and they’re seeing them. So we’ll have a range. We’ll have guys there that are definitely major league prospects, and guys who we know probably really aren’t, but it’ll give them a chance to be seen by local colleges.

“That’s a big part of it, too. Obviously, your job, first and foremost, is to sign major league players. But I like to take [those] several steps further. Being the local representative of the Red Sox, I think my job just should be a little more than that. Not just signing major league players, but kids in the area who want to play, helping them find the place that is consistent with their ability, because there’s somewhere for everyone to play. It’s just finding the right mix — and if I can help any kid in that regard, then I think it’s an important part of my job.

“I’ve already had a lot of calls from major league personnel, scouting directors, crosscheckers, because, in reality, we already have a very good idea of some of the players that will very likely be chosen for Sunday. We know who some of those players are, the premier guys in the area. So we know, no matter what, there will be good players to see on Sunday.”

The ‘rivalry’ part of the tournament’s title stems from the names of the two all-star teams – the ancient rivals and behemoths in the American League East. Fagnant will coach the Red Sox, while Hyde will coach the Yankees.

For Anne-Marie, this tournament is also a way to honor Mike’s father, Carl’s son, also named Mike, who died of a heart attack at the age of 43 on Sept. 15, 2004. The elder Mike played at Florida State University and played Triple-A ball in the White Sox organization.

“I always wanted to do something in honor of  Mike’s father, who passed away, and I didn’t want to do another golf tournament,” she said. “I thought this would capture his spirit. Originally, I was going to do a memorial [tournament] for him, and then [Carl] decided that during this tough economic time, he really didn’t want to raise money or ask people for money. He just thought it would be in bad taste. So he asked if I wouldn’t mind changing the name. So we changed the name to the ‘Summer Rivalry Classic,’ and we thought, 'Well, it’s still in the same spirit, and we’re doing this in honor of Mike.' But someday, it will be called the Mike Yastrzemski Memorial Tournament again.”

Anne-Marie hopes to use the proceeds of the tournament to make a donation to the American Heart Association and to fund a scholarship for at least one player who best embodies the elder Mike’s character and ability.

But she has just one primary hope for the tournament.

“My real ultimate goal is that kids, at minimal one kid who wasn’t going to have a shot at all of getting looked at, gets a scholarship to a Division I school, Division II school, and gets a chance to play college ball, who wasn’t otherwise,” she said. “That would make my day.”


All games in the tournament are open to the public. Tickets for the All-Star Game on Sunday are $5 and can be purchased at Fenway Park before the game or online. The All-Star Game begins at 10 a.m. Gates open at 9:30. For information, visit summerrivalryclassic.com/.

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