At Home With Fred & Natalie Lynn
Even after spending several hours with Fred and Natalie Lynn, it is hard to cover all the bases. Fred is the legendary baseball center fielder famous for hitting the first — and only — grand slam in All-Star game history. Natalie, a trailblazer in television sales, has had her own share of firsts. Carlsbad residents since 1991, the couple recently welcomed Ranch & Coast to their home overlooking the Batiquitos Lagoon and Omni La Costa Resort where they play golf and tennis.
The first thing one notices in their home is color. The dining room walls are a citrusy orange. Natalie notes that dinner guests love to linger there because of its sunny hue. By contrast, the art-filled living room is in shades of blue. But the couple’s favorite space is green — the lushly landscaped backyard, with its curving swimming pool and spa, putting green, and paddle tennis court. Fred, a Food Network fan, loves to cook in the outdoor kitchen, and guests gather for cocktails by the fireplace on summer nights.
The most fascinating room is the “game room,” filled with memories from Fred’s 17-year baseball career — dozens of trophies, plaques, and team pictures, four Gold Gloves, and a Silver Bat (the 1979 American League Batting Championship). After graduating from the University of Southern California on an athletic scholarship, Fred had, arguably, one of the most successful rookie seasons ever. Playing for the Boston Red Sox in 1975, he earned Rookie of the Year, American League MVP, and Gold Glove awards — the first player to achieve this Big League bonanza in the same season.
A nine-time American League All-Star, Fred made history in 1983, during the 50th anniversary of the All-Star Game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. In the third inning, with the bases loaded, he hit a hanging slider into the right-field seats. “When I hit it out, I showed emotion, which I never did, because I was so happy we were going to win the game,” he recalls. “It was 7 to 1, and I knew we couldn’t blow it.” What he did not realize until he reached the dugout was that he had hit the first Grand Slam in All-Star game history. “Would you like to donate that bat to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown?” he was asked. He did.
During July’s All-Star festivities at Petco Park, Fred played in the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game and signed hundreds of autographs, but he says connecting with fans and meeting older players who, like him, paved the way for the players of today were the true highlights. At an exclusive party at the Omnia nightclub atop the Omni downtown, the Major League Baseball Players Association, which battled owners for higher pay, pensions, and playing conditions, marked its 50th anniversary. Players have come a very long way. Fred earned just $20,000 in his first season with the majors. Today, the minimum starting salary is $500,000; the average is $4.4 million.
Fred met Natalie Cole while making a television commercial in Providence, Rhode Island, where she worked in TV sales, one of a handful of women to break into the business in the mid-’70s. She had her own successes as a rookie, scoring big when she sold a Monday Night Football package to a group of car dealers. The Boston TV market soon came calling. Natalie had no idea who Fred was because she didn’t follow baseball, but was hooked when she learned that, like her, he loved to fish. They married eight years later, eventually moving to San Diego where Fred retired from baseball after a season with the Padres. He worked as a baseball analyst for ESPN, CBS and Fox, while Natalie was an account executive for KABC-TV, negotiating advertising contracts for a variety of clients, and later serving as Fred’s business manager. “She will, in a negotiation, chew your leg off if she has to, to get the deal done,” Fred says with a chuckle. “But she’ll be fair, and she will always protect the underdog. If she sees someone being bullied, oh my God, look out!”
“We know we have a good life,” reflects Natalie. “But what we really have is a good relationship. It’s lasted a long time.” Married for 30 years, the couple complements each other. Natalie is a self-described “scrappy little bugger,” while Fred is laid back and easy going. She is yang to his yin. He credits her for softening his rough edges and making him more comfortable in social situations. “I owe a lot of what I’ve done to Natalie because I was pretty raw and unrefined,” he says. “He’s taught me a lot, too,” she adds. “He can give me one look, and calm me down. Fred is a sweet, sweet guy.”
The couple shares a love for animals, including their own rescue cat, Paris. They are passionate about the FACE Foundation, which provides financial grants for animal owners whose pets need critical veterinary care. Since its founding, FACE has saved the lives of 1,500 pets. The Lynns donate autographs and memorabilia to raise money, and serve on the committee for the organization’s annual Invitational Golf Tournament in November at the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club. They also support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and other causes.
The Lynns even donate dinners in their own home. Fred creates healthy meals almost nightly. “When Fred asked my father for my hand, he said ‘Yes,’ on one condition: that he would never make me cook,” recalls Natalie with a laugh. “I was not a cook and never would be. Fred is the cook — and a great one!” She proudly displays images of some of his specialties on her cell phone: Cajun-style dirty rice with shrimp, chicken piccata with peas, salmon with new potatoes. But you won’t find hotdogs, those ballpark faves, on the menu, except, says Fred, on the Fourth of July. Andrea Naversen