Granddaughter Of Baseball Icon
May 4, 2006
Granddaughter of baseball icon
BY MATT VAUTOUR STAFF WRITER
BOSTON - People ask Whitney Mollica questions about her grandfather all the time.
When they find out she's the granddaughter of Don Zimmer, one of the most recognizable and colorful baseball men of all time, the ensuing inquiries are inevitable.
'People ask 'Don't you look at him like an idol?' ' the University of Massachusetts freshman third baseman said rolling her eyes a little. 'He's just my grandfather. I talk to him a couple times a week. It's just a normal thing.'
Tuesday afternoon on Shea Field at Boston College the roles were reversed as Zimmer, a long-time player, manager and coach in the major leagues, fielded questions about Mollica.
Currently a senior baseball adviser for the Tampa Bay Devils Rays, the 75-year-old Zimmer doesn't make all the road trips with the team anymore. But a happy coincidence put the Devil Rays and Minutewomen in Boston at the same time this week.
'I knew (the Minutewomen) were playing this game, so I said I'm going to go on this road trip,' said Zimmer, who skipped Tampa's pregame practice to watch his granddaughter in action. From Boston the Devils Rays go to Texas and then New York. 'Three cities to see this game. Here I am. It's worth it.'
Wearing a black UMass fleece Zimmer, his daughter Donna and son-in-law David Mollica, watched the game in folding chairs down the left-field line.
Zimmer has been a relatively familiar sight at UMass games this year, making it to several when the Minutewomen were in Florida in March. It was the first time he'd seen softball played at a high level.
'I was amazed how good the girls play. I never dreamed that the shortstops and first basemans and pitchers could play as well as they do,' he said. 'When my daughter went to school, I don't even think they had girls softball.'
He gets regular updates on Mollica's progress at the games he doesn't attend.
'I get the update sometimes in the third inning, the fifth inning and the sixth inning,' he said.
Zimmer said he always enjoyed Mollica's love of their similar sports.
'When I go to his house he's like, Get a glove and a ball - I want to see you throw. Get a bat - I want to see you swing,' ' she said.
While working as a bench coach with the New York Yankees and in his current role with the Devil Rays, he kept track of Mollica's play and her recruitment.
Red Sox Vice President Dick Bresciani, a 1960 graduate of UMass, even tried to help sell Zimmer on the Minutewomen.
'He recommended Whitney to come here,' Zimmer said.
Zimmer said he's been impressed with UMass.
'Elaine Sortino and her staff do a tremendous job. It's fun to watch them play and practice,' said Zimmer, who no longer offers much advice to his granddaughter. 'I'm afraid I might tell her something wrong.'
Zimmer said by the end of Mollica's career, he hopes to get to see her play more regularly.
'Eventually I might retire and I'll visit my daughter and stay for a few weeks and watch lots of games,' he said.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports.
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