Athlete Spotlight: Michael Yarin ‘18 - St. John’s Prep Baseball
By Nate Weitzer for Mass Prep Stars
DANVERS, Mass. - Midway through the 2016 baseball season, perennial baseball power St. John’s Prep was struggling to find any offense and was on the outside looking in, at the race for the Catholic Conference title.
So when then-sophomore Michael Yarin exhorted his teammates with a shrieking, “Let’s go!” as his voice cracked during a 7-2 home loss to rival BC High, it served as comic relief more than anything.
However, two days later the Eagles were standing victorious on the field of rival Xaverian, and from that point on their bats caught fire while going 11-3 over the course of the regular season and MIAA Division 1A “Super 8” Tournament, to advance to their second straight state championship.
With his levity and prolific hitting, the UConn-bound Yarin has already made a tremendous impact as part of this storied program.
“My freshman year I tried to calm down and control my emotions but sophomore year I decided to stop doing that,” Yarin explained. “For the first part of the year we were struggling and I felt like we just needed that fire. After winning at Xaverian we were just having fun and that’s what it’s all about, like Bryce Harper said, ‘We have to make baseball fun again.’”
St. John’s Prep head coach Dan Letarte also pushed all the right buttons during last season’s turnaround.
It began with moving Yarin from the leadoff spot to the No. 3 spot, while bumping on-base machine and senior captain Jack Arend to the top of the lineup. Junior Chris Francoeur moved into the second spot in the linuep and Boston College-bound outfielder Jacob Yish moved to cleanup, sparking the Eagles offensive explosion.
“I was hitting well at the beginning of the year and [Arend] was getting on base like every time,” Yarin recalled about the lineup shift. “I started to feel a lot more comfortable coming up with guys in scoring position.”
As a sophomore, the lefty third baseman hit .309 and totaled 23 RBI while saving his best work for the biggest moments.
Along with incoming senior captains Andrew Selima, Frank DiOrio and Francouer, Yarin hit a homer out of minor league Campanelli Stadium in Brockton during the Eagles run in the Super 8.
In a rematch with BC High, Yarin went 5-for-5 with a two-run bomb and four RBI during a 12-1 victory to keep Prep alive. But his raw power may not have been the most impressive factor in that performance.
Michael Yarin '17 - St. John's Prep - photo - Ben Cormier/ESPN Boston
“Some hitters tend to pull a little bit, but Mike [Yarin] will hit it where the pitch is at,” Letarte said. “He’s become a serious hitter even in batting practice, he knows where to hit it and how to find the gaps. To hit a homer in that BC High game and then come up the next time and bunt for a single just shows you how much he’s grown as a baseball player.”
The fact that Yarin’s intelligence is beyond his years is no coincidence.
St. John’s Prep has long been a farm system for elite Div. 1 collegiate prospects and several former Eagles have made their way on to the professional ranks.
A Prep alum and former Boston College star, Ryan Leahy spent five seasons in the Minor Leagues before earning a job as a scout for the Los Angeles Angels. Now he’s back in Danvers as part of the instructional staff at Rt. 1 SportsPlex, where the Eagles sharpen their swings prior to every baseball season.
Leahy worked with Yarin on an individual basis last winter and honed his ample talents at the plate.
“Ryan Leahy has been a huge help over the past few years,” said Yarin. “He taught me how to get into your legs and have a flat bathead, which I hadn’t really heard before.”
Letarte has also been blessed to incorporate former San Diego Padres infielder Matt Antonelli and San Francisco Giants scout Adam Geaslein into his coaching staff, while former stars such as Notre Dame standout Pat Connaughton often return to lend support and advice to current Eagles.
“You have two professional hitters [Leahy and Antonelli] there giving him instructions and Mike [Yarin] has figured it out on his own to an extent. Pitchers are wondering how to pitch to him and he’s become one of our toughest outs,” Letarted effused.
Letarte went out to assert that the sky is the limit for the incoming junior, who is expected to continue batting third in front of first baseman Andrew Selima. As a senior captain, Selima (4 HR, 23 RBI, .303 batting average last season) spoke on the importance of keeping everyone focused, including the junior firebrand.
“I definitely learned to focus and not take any practice lightly,” Selima said about his first couple years at Prep. “That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but to make sure that there’s a purpose and goal to every practice. The season is long, and I learned a lot about remaining mentally tough over a long period of time from those seniors.”
As a sophomore, Selima contributed to a star-studded Eagles team that fell in the Super 8 Final to Braintree. One year later, he hit two home runs while leading Prep back to the Super 8 Final, only to fall to Braintree once again.
Yarin played sparingly on the 2015 varsity team, but still experienced the bitter taste of that defeat.
“Losing in the Super 8 Final two years in a row sucks, but it gives you a little bit of fire,” Yarin said. “You try to keep it out of your mind during games, but it’s a huge motivator in practice.”
And like Selima, he learned a lot about the “Prep Way” of doing things from former stars such as Penn State star Keith Leavitt and Boston College outfield Nick Latham.
Yet St. John’s Prep wasn’t a perfect match for Yarin initially.
“Honestly I didn’t want to come [to Prep] and my parents kind of made me come here,” Yarin admitted. “For the first half of my freshman year, I was pissed off, but the weather warmed up, I got out on the baseball field, met coach Letarte and that changed things. Now I love it here.”
As a freshman, Yarin got a chance to show what he could do in intra-squad scrimmages and promptly caught the eye of the coaching staff.
It wasn’t long before Letarte called him up to the big show, where he got a taste of varsity competition before earning a starting role the following year as a sophomore.
“I guess I didn’t understand how high the level of play was when I was a freshman, but when you get up to varsity it’s like a playoff game every time out. I saw that intensity and loved that, because I just love to compete,” said Yarin.
His competitive nature was on full display during the Eagles postseason run last year and it could pervade the rest of a talented team that will look to go one step further on the shoulders of a great young pitching staff.
Yarin, who also stars on the gridiron, as the Eagles' starting quarterback, had a breakout junior season for Head Coach Brian St. Pierre's team.
Yarin's junior football highlights
One thing is for certain. Yarin isn’t going to let his squad come out flat on the diamond this year.
“I expect the same thing every year, and that’s to win the Super 8,” he said. “We came up a little short last year but we have really good leadership and bring plenty of guys back. I’ll make sure that we’re intense from the start this year.”
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