How My Father and Yaz Conspired to Make Me A Lifelong Red Sox Fan
By Scott Beller
Last week, the family and I ventured into DC to Nationals Park to see the Nats play the Boston Red Sox for the final 2021 regular-season game. Even though I love our home team, I left my Nats hat behind because we were there to cheer the Sox to victory and the top American League Wild Card spot.
Being from the DC area, my Boston Red Sox fandom (which I've proudly passed on to my kids) often confuses people. They assume maybe I'm from the Boston area, or I began liking the team once it started its run of multiple World Series wins earlier this century. No, the truth is I'm a fan because of my father, just not for reasons you might think.
I was born in Northern Virginia, just outside our nation’s capital, a couple of years before the Senators left DC to become the Minnesota Twins. More than three decades later, the DC area was still known as Baltimore Oriole territory. Although the (2019 World Series Champion) Nationals are here now, I didn't have them or any other true "home team" to root for while I was growing up.
I'm not a bandwagon Sox fan. I didn’t conveniently jump aboard in 2004 after the team won its first World Series since 1918, as many new baseball fans and non-New Englanders did. I began my suffering long before there was a “Red Sox Nation,” four championship rings, and pink caps emblazoned with the iconic Bosox “B.”
I vaguely remember watching with my dad the Sox lose to The Big Red Machine in the 1975 World Series when I was only 6. I really don't remember liking baseball, much less the Red Sox, before that.
I didn't get hooked until the following year. It would be my first season playing Little League. My best friend at the time, Chris, already had a season of baseball under his belt. So, when registration for the 1976 season rolled around, I told my parents I wanted to join him. Unfortunately, Chris was a member of an established team, the Bombers, and there were no vacancies on its roster. So, I was placed on the Generals.
After our first game against the Bombers, I vividly remember my father side-stepping me to greet Chris with a hearty, “Hey, Yaz, great game!”
My father gave my friend the same nickname as star Boston Red Sox outfielder-first baseman Carl Yastrzemski, who, like Chris (and my father) was a lefty. My dad didn’t even like the Red Sox, as far as I knew. He was an Orioles fan.
I didn’t know who "Yaz" was, but I quickly learned all I could about the future, first-ballot Hall of Famer, last man to win baseball’s "Triple Crown," and player whose nickname my friend had earned from my father without even trying. His bio and stats were irrelevant. What really mattered to me was that he played baseball, he was a lefty my dad admired, and his nickname was Yaz.
And I wanted to be him.
Yastrzemski immediately became my favorite player, and Boston my adopted team for life. I quickly proved my devotion by enduring a one-game playoff letdown in 1978. After Yaz fouled out to Yankees third-baseman Craig Nettles to end the game, I was wrecked. A crushing loss to the Mets in the 1986 World Series got me further entrenched. I was all-in.
For nearly 30 years, every baseball season ended in disappointment (that included my Little League teams, one of which finished 0-18 with my dad as coach), but we held out hope for the coming spring. There was always next year.
Through my adolescence, baseball was my world, and the Sox my catharsis. I now understand it was all just a means to an end for me. Baseball was the one environment where I was most comfortable – where I had the most confidence. I felt like it gave me the chance to get my father’s attention in a positive way, maybe even earn his respect. I would never be "Yaz," but maybe I could become somebody other than "hey, Tubby" or "don’t be such a pussy."
I became a pitcher. The one player who was impossible to miss: standing tall in the center of the diamond, holding the ball to start every play, controlling all the action. Every strong throw, every swing-and-miss, every strikeout empowered me and elicited rare positive feedback from the audience of one I was trying to impress.
The flipside was that I pressured myself to be perfect. Each hit or walk I gave up or error I made was magnified. I blamed myself for every mistake, probably to inoculate against the criticism I experienced and came to expect from my father. I learned that doing well on the field made me bulletproof, at least temporarily. It granted me a respite from the taunts and name-calling. It got my father to talk to me like his son he was proud of, instead of the "fat kid" he bullied to make himself feel better.
As I got older and better, ironically, my father became less involved in my baseball life and, eventually, my personal life. After my parents divorced while I was in high school, he rarely came to my games. When I threw a no-hitter my senior year, he was again absent. Of course, my mom cheered loud enough for both of them. But I already knew she was in my corner no matter what.
He missed most all my good on-field performances, avoided sharing any of the 2004, 2007, or 2013 Red Sox championship glory with me, and never gave me a cool Sox-related nickname. But he did once tell me, not long before he died in 2017, that he respected me for being a good dad to my girls. In the last face-to-face conversation we had, he told me, "You are a better father than I ever was."
Whether he meant it or not, I'm going to take that as a win. He may as well have said, "Way to go, Big Papi."
Scott Beller is the proud, imperfect dad of two mighty girls, Morgan and Lauren, imperfect husband of rock-star mom, Elisabeth, Red Sox fan who's less uptight since 2004, and also Editor of the Daddying blog and DCG's Director of Communications. He's a seasoned writer and PR agency veteran with more than 25 years of experience helping organizations of all sizes reach audiences and tell their stories. Prior to launching his own creative communications consultancy in 2003, he led PR teams with some of the world’s most respected agencies, including Fleishman-Hillard and The Weber Group. As a consultant, he’s helped launch two other parenting advocacy nonprofits with DCG founder Allan Shedlin. His first book, Beggars or Angels, was a ghostwritten memoir for the nonprofit Devotion to Children's founder Rosemary Tran Lauer. He was formerly known as "Imperfect Dad" and Head Writer for the Raising Nerd blog, which supported parents in inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and creative problem solvers. He earned his BA in Communications from VA Tech.