When Giants fans look back on Mike Yastrzemski's rookie year, they surely remember the 21 homers, his successful return to Baltimore, and that magical series at Fenway Park. Justin Viele, one of Yastrzemski's new hitting coaches, watched all that from afar, recalling some conversations he had with Yastrzemski long before Giants fans knew who the outfielder was.
Viele was taken in the 37th round out of Santa Clara in 2013 and played two seasons as an infielder in Baltimore's minor league system before getting into coaching. He was Yastrzemski's teammate and roommate, and years later they were reunited when Gabe Kapler picked the 29-year-old Viele as one of his hitting coaches on a revamped staff.
Viele joined the Giants Insider Podcast this week and recalled the early days with Yastrzemski, which included plenty of conversations about their futures. In particular, Viele vividly remembers a trip to the beach with current Orioles Trey Mancini and Austin Wynns when they were all in the instructional league. Viele hasn't forgotten what Yastrzemski said as they rode along in the backseat of Mancini's truck.
"I remember vividly him saying, 'I'm going to make it to the Major Leagues. I'm going to be a big league player.' And I remember just thinking, man, I cannot honestly say the same thing," Viele said, smiling. "I literally knew if I were to say it I would have just sounded so phony because I didn't truly believe that. Playing with Yaz and playing with Trey, these guys were on a different level, mentally and physically. Everything they did was just so cool to watch.
"When Yaz said that, I'm like, I know he's going to make it. Just from the conviction and way he said it I knew he was going to make it. That was a really cool memory for me."
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Viele hit just .211 in two years in the minors, and he said he could tell back then how some players were just wired differently. He remembers thinking every game was the most important game of his life, while Yastrzemski and Mancini -- who hit 35 homers last year for the Orioles -- always kept an even temperament.
"Everything was so calm," he said. "They have this focus of what they want to accomplish that day and they go play the game and the game just looks so easy, and for me it was not that way. It was really cool to watch."
Viele has forged his own path, one that's just about unprecedented in the game. He began his coaching career in 2015 and spent two years at his alma mater before coaching in rookie ball for the Dodgers, where he worked under Gabe Kapler and Farhan Zaidi. He was the hitting coach in A-ball last year and was promoted to minor league hitting coordinator before Kapler called with a surprising offer to help lead a big league staff.
[RELATED: Zaidi encouraged by what he's seeing from Giants]
Viele has gotten into that job at a remarkably young age, which is ironically the opposite of the path Yastrzemski took. It took Yastrzemski six years in the minors to get his first shot, but he certainly made the most of it. His former roommate wasn't at all surprised to see the success on the field last year.
"When he came up and he started doing what he was doing, I was not shocked," Viele said. "I was like, yep, I was expecting that. It was probably cool for him. The Orioles didn't bring him up at all and then he goes and does that. Hopefully they saw that -- obviously they did -- it is cool to kind of prove that yeah I can do this and I should be up here."