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YOU CAN CALL HIM YAZ Ballplayer's cousin wears 8, plays QB


Ross Yastrzemsky never met his famous third cousin, Carl Yastrzemski.

But the Liberty High quarterback does have an autographed picture of the former Boston Red Sox great, a letter from Yaz and a No. 8 practice jersey with the words "Polish Hot Dog" on the back.

Also, teachers at Liberty refer to their football star as "Yaz."

"It's a compliment," said Yastrzemsky, whose facial features slightly resemble those of the major-league hitting star. "I never met the man, but I admire him. He's my third cousin. I saw him play in his last season at Memorial Stadium in 1983. I wrote him a letter and he wrote back and sent me an autographed picture."

Liberty's Yastrzemsky often has to explain the "y" instead of an "i" at the end of his name.

"I guess my grandfather changed the spelling for some reason," said Yastrzemsky, whose family moved to Carroll County from Glen Burnie.

Like most youngsters, Yastrzemsky dabbled in baseball, but he soon discovered that he was better in lacrosse than baseball.

"Lacrosse may be Ross' best sport," said Liberty football coach John Magee.

Yastrzemsky is an attackman for the Liberty lacrosse team, a guard on the school basketball team and is trying to lead the Lions out of the football wilderness this season.

The football task may be a lot harder than meeting Carl Yastrzemski some day.

The Lions got off to an 0-5 start, dimming Magee's preseason enthusiasm.

"We always seem to find a way to lose," said Magee. "We've moved the ball consistently in the air, but our defense has been a problem. We played terrible defense against Atholton [a 36-28 loss]. They ran the option play nine times against us, and eight times the quarterback was not touched."

That loss especially bothers Magee because it was the closest the Lions have come to winning.

They put up a nice fight against a much stronger South Carroll team but came away with a 13-0 loss.

A lack of speed has prevented Liberty from competing with the good teams, but Magee says the Lions haven't quit.

"It's frustrating for all of us," said the Liberty coach. "We're working just as hard as we ever did but not getting any rewards on Friday."

Yastrzemsky, 5 feet 9, 150 pounds, has tried to do his part, completing 30 of 63 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns.

The scrappy senior has been relatively mistake-free with the exception of the Howard game in which he threw three interceptions.

"That bothered me, but I had to forget it before the next game," said Yastrzemsky. "I'm getting a lot of support from the teachers who come out and watch our games and try to encourage the team."

Yastrzemsky said the Lions have had trouble making tackles.

"We're not a wimp team," he said. "We get to the ball carrier, but we can't seem to wrap him up."

Yastrzemsky was a defensive back earlier in the season, but lately Magee has not allowed his quarterback to play defense.

"We can't afford to lose Ross to an injury," said Magee. "But I might let him get back out there some time before the season is over."

According to Magee, Yastrzemsky is superb at recognizing changes in defenses and calling audibles.

"Those things can be a problem sometimes," said the coach. "But not with Ross. He knows right away when to check off. He's a leader and a competitor."

In addition to playing three sports, "Yaz" has a 3.8 grade-point average and is hoping to get into the Naval Academy, where he would like to play on the lacrosse team.

"I've had a couple of colleges talk to me about lacrosse," he said. "If I want to play football, I'd have to grow a lot."

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