COTUIT — Bloodlines run deep throughout baseball, as we see generations of players follow their family into the game. The Cotuit Kettleers have a few recognizable last names on their roster, including the most identifiable one in New England, Yastrzemski.
Mike Yastrzemski (Vanderbilt), who returns for his second season, is the grandson of Hall-of-Famer Carl Yastrzemski. As most people know, the original “Yaz” was the last major leaguer to win the Triple Crown during the storied 1967 “Impossible Dream” year, which revitalized baseball in New England. The Kettleers are anxious to get the younger Yaz back to Lowell Park, but his arrival has been delayed due to his participation in the College World Series. Although his contributions have been missed, it has been another outfielder with significant baseball bloodlines that has mitigated Yastrzemski’s absence.
Freshman Kyle Wren (Georgia Tech) may not possess the prestigious last name of Yastrzemski, but his is also an important one in baseball. His father, Frank, is the general manager of the Atlanta Braves. Frank Wren played five seasons of minor league baseball, reaching the Double A level. After his career in pro ball, he joined the front office of the Montreal Expos as an assistant director of scouting in 1987. From there, he worked with the Florida Marlins and Baltimore Orioles until accepting the assistant general manager’s job under John Schuerholz in Atlanta. Wren was promoted to general manager four years ago when Schuerholz became Braves’ president.
With his dad’s experience as a professional baseball player and high-ranking executive, Kyle has had the opportunity to learn the game from one of the most knowledgeable people around. “He taught us everything we know and how to play the game hard every single day — the right way,” Kyle said.
As a top executive, Wren’s father understands what it takes to be successful in the major leagues. Because of his dad’s experience, Kyle has learned the practices and intricacies of baseball that other players may have not yet discovered. “In baseball, you have to work constantly. You have to throw, hit, catch every single day. You can’t take a break or ever take a day off. He instilled my work ethic into me,” he says.
Many have heard the pitch about working hard and developing good habits from their parents. But Wren has seen first-hand, from the Braves locker room, what it takes to be a major leaguer. “You watch them and see how they go about their business. Guys get there early and get better, they keep constantly working,” he said.
Wren’s tireless work ethic paid off this spring when he was named to the Louisville Slugger and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshman All-America teams. He batted .340 with 57 runs scored, 11 doubles, one home run and 32 RBIs. He also collected a conference-leading seven triples, stole 16 bases, and was named to the All-ACC First Team. Since arriving on the Cape, he’s hitting .372 with five RBIs and leads the league with nine steals.
Wren proves that bloodlines run deep through baseball, but often bloodlines extend from other playing fields, such as the gridiron, which is the case for Kettleers’ freshman catcher Stefan Sabol (Oregon). Sabol is the cousin of all-pro Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Sabol hails from Aliso Viejo, California, in Orange County, and is related to Polamalu through his mother, who moved from Western Samoa when she was a child. “I have only met him at a family luau party, and he is very quiet, but all the kids love him,” he says.
Sabol is half Samoan, but don’t judge his athletic abilities based on his position as a catcher, even though many associate catchers as slow and clunky, like major leaguers Benjie, Jose and Yadier Molina. Whatever genetics Polamalu received, the 6-2, 210 pound Sabol received at least some of those blessed attributes. He finished first in the SPARQ testing (which tests and measures athleticism) at last summer's 2010 Area Code Games in California and was considered to be one of the top prep athletes in the 2010 draft. He posted an astounding 36.2-inch vertical leap and a 6.28-second time over 60 yards (Jacoby Ellsbury posted a 6.55 when the Red Sox drafted him in 2005).
With this much athleticism, it would make sense for Sabol to play a sport with an open field or court, but he was scared off by an injury and made an early career decision. “I played football freshman year and could have had a future, but I sprained my knee,” he said. “In baseball you tend to have a longer career than in football.”
But why is Sabol catching if he has this much athleticism? Athleticism behind the plate is actually an attribute many scouts look for, because it translates positively when blocking pitches in the dirt or jumping out of the crouch to field a bunt, to catch a foul ball, or back up first base on infield grounders. In addition, with his bat speed and potential as an above-quality hitter, his offense is more valuable from the catcher position. Because of his athleticism, Sabol can also play outfield, which is where some scouts and talent evaluators project he will eventually wind up. For now, Sabol will be calling pitches from behind the plate.
Obviously, the Kettleers have impressive bloodlines, beginning with coach Mike Roberts, the father of All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts of the Baltimore Orioles. Make no mistake, these players are not here because of their genetic lineage. While some of them have had the benefit of family members who have gone before them, they are the ones who have put in the hard work and effort to play in the Cape League.