Family Ties Flourishing in Baseball: New York Yankees

Baseball has more family relationships than any other professional sport.  They existed in the earliest days of the sport in the 1870s, and they are abundant in today’s game, perhaps more so than ever before.  Baseball has been called a “generational” sport for several reasons.  One is that multiple generations of families have been active in the game–grandfathers, fathers, sons, and brothers.  And now even some great-grandsons are starting to show up on rosters.  Uncles, nephews, cousins and in-laws are part of the extended family of baseball relatives, too.

Baseball bloodlines aren’t limited to just the players.  Family trees with a baseball background have commonly included managers, coaches, scouts, owners, executives, front office personnel, umpires, and broadcasters.

Indeed, families with a heritage of baseball are like those with military, medical, jurisprudence, and agricultural backgrounds.  Their professions are often passed down from one generation to the next.  Likewise, professional baseball fathers generally want their sons to follow in their footsteps.  Brothers grow up pushing each other to excel on the diamond.  Once one brother gets drafted by a major league team, then it’s often the case his brother will try to follow.

A look back in history shows many fascinating stories about baseball families.  For example:

  • the Hairston family, which included a major league father (Sam), three sons (two in the majors—John and Jerry Sr.), and five grandsons (two in the majors—Jerry Jr. and Scott), collectively had professional careers that spanned from 1945 to 2014.
  • three Alou brothers (Felipe, Matty, and Jesus) played for the San Francisco Giants in the same game in 1963.  The trio had two cousins who followed them in the big leagues, and one of the trio, Felipe, also had four sons to play professionally.
  • the Boyer brood included seven brothers that played professionally, including three major leaguers (Cloyd, Ken, and Clete).  They then produced three sons who played in the minors.

Numerous players of the 1960s New York Yankees teams had offspring who wound up playing professional baseball.  Follow the link below to an article entitled “Sons of the 1960s Bronx Bombers Had Big Shoes to Fill.”

https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/sons-of-the-1960s-bronx-bombers-had-big-shoes-to-fill/

Fast-forwarding to more recent times, here are some highlights of baseball relatives in the New York Yankees organization during 2019.

Gary Sanchez was an all-star selection in 2019.  He had the most home runs in his career (34) despite spending several stints on the injured list.  He had been the runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016 when he hit 20 home runs in only 53 games.  Gary’s brother Miguel had played in the Seattle Mariners organization for six seasons (2009-2014) as a catcher and pitcher.

Austin Romine had one of his best years with the Yankees with a slash line of .281/.310/.439, with 8 home runs and 35 RBIs.  He filled in very capably when regular catcher Gary Sanchez was on the injured list.  Romine is in one of those rare families that had a father and a brother in major-league baseball.  His father Kevin was a major-league outfielder in the Red Sox organization from 1985 to 1991, when he was also a backup player to regulars like Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, and Mike Greenwell.  His brother Andrew is a nine-year major-league veteran who played at the Triple-A level with the Philadelphia Phillies last season.

Aaron Hicks was in his fourth season with the Yankees but was one of several regulars who spent most of the season on the injured list.  In 59 games he hit 12 home runs and 36 RBIs.  He had signed a seven-year contract extension worth $70 million before the season began.  Hicks is the son of Joseph Hicks, who reached the Double-A level with the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals organizations before retiring in 1981.

Luis Severino missed all the 2019 season except one game in September due to a rotator cuff injury.  His disappointing season came after he led the Yankees in wins (19) in 2018.  His younger brother Rafael is also a pitcher, signed as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic and assigned to the Yankees’ academy there.

Zach Britton was one of the stalwarts in the Yankees’ bullpen in his first full season with them last season. In 66 appearances, he posted a 1.91 ERA.  He didn’t yield any runs in five relief appearances against Houston in the ALCS.  He is the brother of Buck Britton who played nine seasons in the minors before becoming a manager in the Baltimore Orioles farm system.

The Yankees’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several prospects whose relatives were former major-league all-stars:  Jose Mesa Jr. (son of Jose Mesa Sr.), and Michael O’Neill (nephew of Paul O’Neill), Ryan Lidge (brother of Brad Lidge), LJ Mazzilli (son of Lee Mazzilli),and Isiah Gilliam, (grandson of Jim Gilliam).

The Yankees had numerous personnel filling non-playing roles in the organization during 2019.  Some of them include:

Hal Steinbrenner is the managing general partner of the Yankees, having taken over for their legendary father, George Steinbrenner, following his death in 2010.  His siblings, Hank, Jennifer, and Jessica are general partners.

Aaron Boone was in his second year as manager of the Yankees.  His teams have won a hundred or more games in each season.  He played 12 seasons in the majors, including a stint with the Yankees.  Boone is part of a three-generation major-league family (one of only four in MLB history), including his grandfather Ray, father, Bob, and brother Bret.

Phil Nevin is in his second season as the Yankees’ third base coach.  He was the first overall pick of the 1992 MLB draft by the Houston Astros.  Nevin played 12 seasons in the majors, including an all-star season in 2001 with San Diego.  Nevin’s son Tyler was a first-round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2015 and played at the Double-A level in 2019.

Brothers Lou and Rob Cucuzza have been long-time clubhouse and equipment managers at Yankee Stadium.  They previously served with their father, Lou Sr., who also had an extensive career in similar capacities with the Yankees.

Mark Littlefield is a medical coordinator in the Yankees organization.  He is the brother of David Littlefield, currently an executive in the Detroit Tigers organization, and Scott Littlefield, currently a scout in the Texas Rangers organization.

Ken Singleton is currently a broadcaster for the Yankees.  He previously had a 15-year major-league playing career with the Montreal Expos and Baltimore Orioles.  His son, Justin, played for six seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, reaching the Triple-A level.

Donny Rowland, Yankees’ Director of International Scouting, is the father of Shane Rowland, who played two seasons in the Cleveland Indians organization.  The following Yankees scouts have relatives in baseball: Troy Afenir (father of Audie Afenir, 2019 independent league), Jeff Patterson (brother of Jim Patterson, former Yankees scout), Cory Melvin (son of Doug Melvin, former front office executive with several teams).

Mike Rizzo celebrates World Series championship with his father

It was a special moment for Washington Nationals president and general manager Mike Rizzo when his team captured its first-ever World Series championship last year. Rizzo is a veteran of 37 years in professional baseball.

Rizzo is the son of Philip Rizzo, a long-time major-league scout, who has signed 11 one-year contracts to work for his son, since Mike began working for the Nationals.

Read more about Mike Rizzo’s career and his championship celebration here.

Travis Shaw Joins Family Affair at Toronto

Infielder Travis Shaw signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in December after completing three seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. The 29-year-old has five years in the majors, including two with Boston.

Shaw is the son of Jeff Shaw, former major-league relief pitcher and two-time all-star from 1990 to 2001.

Travis joins the Blue Jays team that already has several players with family ties in the majors. With Shaw at first base, the Blue Jays could field an entire infield consisting of players whose fathers were big leaguers.

Blue Jays second baseman Cavan Biggio is the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. Shortstop Bo Bichette is the son of former All-Star Dante Bichette, while Vlad Guerrero Jr. is the son of Hall of Famer Vlad Guerrero Sr. Additionally, the Blue Jays team included Lourdes Gurriel Jr., whose brother Yuli is the first baseman for the Houston Astros.

Read more about Travis Shaw by clicking here.

Derek Shelton named manager of Pirates

Derek Shelton was recently named the new manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, replacing Clint Hurdle who had been the Pirates’ skipper from 2011 to 2019.

Shelton had most recently been a coach for the Minnesota Twins, and has previously held coaching jobs with the Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays.

Shelton’s father, Ron, was a minor-leaguer from 1967 to 1971 in the Baltimore Orioles organization.

Click here to read more about Ron Shelton’s new job.

Mike Bell named Twins bench coach

Mike Bell, a member of one of the most famous baseball families in major-league history, was named the bench coach by the Minnesota Twins. He will be on the staff of manager Rocco Baldelli, the AL Manager of the Year in 2019.

Bell was previously Vice President, Player Development for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He appeared in 19 major-league games for the Cincinnati Reds in 2000 and played a total of 13 seasons in the minors.

Bell is the son of Buddy Bell, a major-leaguer from 1972-1989 and former major-league manager, and the grandson of Gus Bell, a major-leaguer from 1950 to 1964. His brother David is currently the manager for the Reds.

Click here to read more about Bell’s new job.

Bellingers familiar with October play

Cody Bellinger was recently named the Most Valuable Player for the National League.  It’s his second league award in his three years in the majors, as he was the Rookie of the Year in 2017.  He has already played in two World Series with the Dodgers.

Cody’s father, Clay, is also no stranger to World Series play.  He appeared in the Fall Classic with the New York Yankees in 1999, 2000, and 2001.

Click here to read more about the Bellingers in the New York Post.

Jim Crane’s executive team now includes son Jared

Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros, recently named his son, Jared, as team president for business operations.  Jared replaces Reid Ryan, who will become an executive advisor to Crane.  Crane says the move is part of his succession plan for the organization.

Reid Ryan is the son of Nolan Ryan, who had been an advisor for the Astros for the last years.  The elder Ryan is ending his relationship with the Astros.

Click here to read more from the Houston Chronicle about the Astros’ organizational move.