Baseball’s family ties hampered by crazy 2020 season

COVID-19 put a damper on most things this year, including the 2020 MLB season. The changes that came about because of the pandemic even had an impact on the number of family relationships in the majors and minors this year and next year as well. It affected players, managers, coaches, scouts, and front-office personnel of all the big league organizations.

We had an abbreviated spring training, with players barely have gotten in game-ready condition when they were sent home in mid-March. Then we had a truncated regular season that lasted 60 games in a little more than two months. We didn’t have a minor league season from which big-league teams could draw needed players throughout the season. Instead it was replaced by each major-league team having a taxi or reserve squad of 60 players at their disposal during the season. The draft class was the smallest in history because MLB limited the selections to five rounds. Although not COVID-related, MLB also announced its plan to reduce the number of minor-league affiliates by 25 percent in 2021.

Consequently, fewer players were able to break into major league rosters coming out of spring training, since there wasn’t sufficient time for them to hone and demonstrate their skills. There were fewer call-ups to big-league rosters because of the limited pool of available players to draw from. In fact, the shortened season saw the fewest prospects promoted since 1878. There were fewer number of amateur players drafted, which will impact the population of major and minor league rosters in the future. Players with baseball in their bloodlines were impacted by all of these factors.

The duties of player development and minor-league field and front office personnel were dramatically curtailed, although most organizations continued to pay their salaries, albeit reduced, for parts of the season. There will be 25 percent fewer affiliated players in the minors next season, although independent leagues may fill some of the gap. Many of those jobs and roster spots, including those held by staff and players with baseball relatives, will be eliminated in 2021 because of the negative financial impact of COVID this season.

Despite all of these factors, baseball’s bloodlines weren’t completely put on hold this season. Here are some highlights of baseball’s relatives in 2020 in several categories.

Opponents

Brothers Hunter and Braden Bishop met on the field for the first time in their lives in an early spring training game this year. Hunter was a first-round pick of San Francisco in 2019, while Braden, who is five years older, is in his second major-league season for the Seattle Mariners. They had a memorable moment together in the game when Hunter fielded an overthrow from the Giants catcher while Braden stole second and then made his way to third on the overthrow. For a brief moment, Hunter thought about trying to throw out his brother at third base, but then realized he didn’t have a shot on the play.

David Bell was in his second season as manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 2020. His brother Mike was named the bench coach for the Minnesota Twins under manager Rocco Baldelli for 2020, setting up the occasion for them to be in opposing dugouts for a three-game series starting on September 25. The Twins won two of the games, helping them earn the Central Division title.

On August 14, cousins Franmil Reyes and Ivan Nova faced each other for the third time in a major-league game. The Indians’ Reyes got the best of Detroit’s Nova with a two-run home run and an RBI single, as the Indians won, 10-5.

Brothers Corey and Kyle Seager are six years apart in age and never had a chance growing up to play on the same baseball diamond. On August 17, their respective teams (Dodgers and Mariners) faced each other, with both of them homering in the game won by Los Angeles, 11-9. The two brothers were productive that day, combining for five hits, four runs scored, and five RBIs.

When outfielder Kyle Zimmer was called up by the Kansas City Royals on July 25, it set up the possibility that he could face his brother Bradley, who pitched for the Cleveland Indians. They both appeared in the same game on July 26 but wound up not opposing each other. They’ll have to wait until the 2021 season.

Teammates

Josh Naylor was traded by San Diego to the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline on August 31. Naylor’s brother Bo currently plays in the Indians farm system, so they could find themselves as teammates for the Tribe down the road. The Naylor brothers are natives of Canada, and both were Number 1 draft picks by their respective teams.

In Toronto’s first game of the 2020 season on July 24, the first four batters in their lineup, who also made up the entire infield, were sons of former major-leaguers. Shortstop Bo Bichette, son of Dante Bichette, led off for the Blue Jays. Second baseman Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, batted second. First baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr., son of Hall of Famer Valdimir Guerrero Sr., was in the third spot, while third baseman Travis Shaw, son of Jeff Shaw, batted cleanup. Each of the players got at least one hit in the game, with Biggio hitting a home run.

Extending the multi-generation families

Three-generation major-leaguers are a rarity, with the Boones, Bells, Hairstons, and Stephensons as the only ones in baseball history. The next candidate for a three-generation family would likely be accomplished by Trei Cruz, son of Jose Cruz Jr, and grandson of Jose Cruz Sr. Trei was drafted in the third round out of Rice University by the Detroit Tigers. He had previously been drafted out of high school in 2017 by the Washington Nationals.

The Boone family could become the first four-generation family, since Jake Boone signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Washington Nationals during the summer. Jake, who played three seasons as shortstop at Princeton University, is the son of Bret Boone, nephew of Aaron Boone, the grandson of Bob Boone, and the great grandson of Ray Boone.

MLB Debuts

Sons of former professional players who made their MLB debuts this year include:

Daulton Varsho, July 30, Diamondbacks outfielder/catcher, son of Gary Varsho (1988-1995)

Brandon Leibrandt, August 23, Phillies pitcher, son of Charlie Leibrandt (1979-1993)

Ke’Bryan Hayes, September 1, Pirates third baseman, son of Charlie Hayes (1988-2001)

Derek Hill, September 4, Tigers outfielder, son of Glenallen Hill (1989-2001)

Daz Cameron, September 9, Tigers outfielder, son of Mike Cameron (1995-2011)

Mickey Moniak, September 16, Phillies outfielder, grandson of Bill Moniak (minor leaguer, 1958-1963)

Ryan Weathers, October 10, Padres pitcher, son of David Weathers (1991-2009)

Latest MLB manager with family ties

Luis Rojas made his major-league debut as manager of the New York Mets, joining Aaron Boone, David Bell, and Terry Francona as current managers with major-league fathers. Rojas is the son of Felipe Alou, who managed the Expos and Giants during 1992 through 2006.

Family Ties Overseas

On September 17 in South Korea, Preston Tucker hit two home runs in his Kia team’s win over Samsung in the Korean Baseball Organization league. Nearly 12 hours later and over 7,000 miles apart, his brother Kyle homered for the Houston Astros in their defeat of the Texas Rangers, 2-1. That’s probably the first time brothers hit homers on the same day on two continents.

Mel Rojas Jr, son of former major-league pitcher Mel Rojas Sr., is currently leading the Korean Baseball Organization in all the Triple Crown categories. The 30-year-old was a former third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, but he never played at the big-league level.

Drafted players

In addition to Trei Cruz, some of the players drafted in 2020 with major-league ties include:

Tyler Soderstrom was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the first round. He is the son of Steve Soderstrom who was also a first-rounder of the 1993 draft by San Francisco. They are the tenth father-son duo to be first-round draftees.

Carson Tucker was drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Indians. His brother Cole Tucker, currently a Pirates shortstop, was also a first-round pick. They are the ninth set of brothers as first-round picks.

Bryce Jarvis was a first-round pick of the Diamondbacks, while his father Keith Jarvis was a 12-year starter.

Players not drafted

Some of the draft-eligible amateur players with family ties were victims of the smaller draft class and didn’t get selected. In normal years, some of those players would likely have been drafted in the later rounds. A few of the more recognizable names include:

Peyton Glavine, son of Tom Glavine

Dante Girardi, son of Joe Girardi

Marquis Grissom Jr., son of Marquis Grissom Sr.

Casey Dykstra, son of Lenny Dykstra

Ryan Berardino, grandson of Dwight Evans and Dick Berardino

Darren Baker, son of Dusty Baker

Miscellaneous

Former Chicago White Sox pitcher Richard Dotson (1979-1990) was surprised this year to find out through DNA testing that his biological father was former major-league pitcher Turk Farrell (1956-1969). Dotson’s deceased mother had never spoken of her relationship with Farrell.

Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer struck out Toronto’s Vlad Guerrero Jr. on July 29. Scherzer also struck out Vlad’s father ten years earlier.

Jake Boone anxious to extend family’s baseball legacy

Jake Boone decided to forgo his senior senior at Princeton University and signed a contract with the Washington Nationals this summer, even though he was not selected in the June MLB Draft. He has been an infielder at Princeton for the past three seasons.

Boone had previously been drafted by the Nationals out of high school in 2017, but chose to attend Princeton.

If he were to eventually reach the majors, the Boone family would become the first to have four generations of major-league ballplayers. His great-grandfather Ray, grandfather Bob, father Bret, and uncle Aaron are veterans of the big leagues.

Click here to read more about Jake Boone.

Dusty Baker’s son Darren to continue college career at Cal

Darren Baker was eligible for the MLB Draft this season, but with a limited draft of only five rounds, he was not selected among the top amateur high school and college players in the country. So he has decided to finish his college career.

Darren was originally drafted out of high school in 2017 by the Washington Nationals in the 27th round. However, he chose to attend the University of California, where he has been a starter at second base from 2018 to 2020. His aspirations are to eventually play in the major leagues.

Darren is the son of Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, who has been in the majors for 19 years as a player and 23 years as a manager, including stints with the Giants, Cubs, Reds, and Nationals before assuming his current role with the Astros this season.

Click here to read more about Darren Baker.

Jerry Hairston Jr. relishes career in broadcasting

Jerry Hairston Jr. had a sixteen-year major-league career from 1998 to 2013, playing for nine different teams, with Baltimore the longest at seven seasons. He often served as a valuable super-utility player, as he played all positions except pitcher and catcher throughout his career.

Hairston, who just completed his eighth season as a broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is enjoying the extension of his involvement in baseball.

Hairston comes from a family steeped in pro baseball. His father Jerry Sr., uncle John, grandfather Sam, and brother Scott played in the majors, while another uncle and several of his cousins have played in the minors.

Click here to read more about Hairston in his role with the Dodgers.

Fernando Tatis Jr. a rising MLB star

Fernando Tatis Jr. was one of the most exciting stars of the abbreviated 2020 season. He energized the San Diego Padres this year, leading them to their first post-season appearance since 2006. He finished second in the league in home runs (17) and fourth in RBIs (45), while making countless impressive defensive plays at shortstop throughout the season.

Tatis Jr. made his major-league debut in 2019 and provided a glimpse of things to come, before he missed half of the season due to injury. He still managed to finish third in the Rookie of the Year voting last year.

Tatis Jr. is the son of Fernando Tatis Sr., a major-leaguer from 1997 to 2010. His grandfather Fernando Tatis played in the Houston Astros organization from 1969 to 1978.

Click here to read more about Fernando Jr.’s 2020 season.

Ryan Weathers makes improbable major-league debut in post-season

20-year-old pitcher Ryan Weathers had a total of 29 minor-league games under his belt before making his major-league debut with the San Diego Padres against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2020 NLDS.

Weathers was the first-round pick of the Padres in 2018. He had never pitched above Class A before his improbable post-season relief appearance. With the COVID-19 impacts on the 2020 season, rosters have been in a state of flux, and Weathers benefitted from the situation.

Weathers is the son of David Weathers, former major-league pitcher from 1991 and 2009. The elder Weathers was a member of the 1996 New York Yankees championship team.

Weathers is the second-youngest player to make his MLB debut in the post-season. Adalberto Mondesi holds the record with his appearance with the Kansas City Royals in 2015. Mondesi is the son of Raul Mondesi.

Click here to read more about Ryan Weathers’ debut.

Joe Buck joins father Jack in Pro Football Hall of Fame. Could he eventually do the same in baseball?

Joe Buck was recently named to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a broadcaster, joining his legendary father Jack Buck, who was elected in 1996.

Jack is also a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 1987. Since Joe is also a long-time broadcaster in major-league baseball, he could very likely join his father in Cooperstown as well.

Click here to read more about Joe Buck.

Jake Boone joins grandpa Bob Boone’s major-league organization

Jake Boone decided to forgo his senior season at Princeton University next year and signed a contract with the Washington Nationals. Jake is the son of Bret Boone, grandson of Bob Boone, and great grandson of Ray Boone, all of whom played in the majors.

Bob Boone is currently a vice president with the Nationals, and Bret Boone attempted a comeback in 2008 (after retiring in 2005) with the Nationals organization, but did not play in the majors with them.

Jake is the nephew of Aaron Boone, the current Yankees manager.

The Boones are one of only five families to have three generations play in the majors, including the Bells, Hairstons, Colemans and Schofield/Werths.

If Jake eventually makes it to the majors, the Boones would become the first four-generation family in the majors.

Click here to read about Jake Boone’s signing.

Bo Bichette’s hitting teacher is his Blue Jays father

Shortstop Bo Bichette is making a name for himself with the Toronto Blue Jays. He had a spectacular rookie season last year, hitting 11 home runs ins 46 games and posting an impressive slash line of .311/.358/.571. He got a good start in 2020, but has been affected by injuries since mid-August.

Bo’s father Dante Bichette joined the Blue Jays this season as a hitting instructor. He was a three-time all-star during his 14-year major-league career. He led the National League in home runs (40) and RBIs (128) in 1995 with Colorado.

Bo’s brother Dante Bichette Jr. was a minor leaguer from 2011 to 2019, after being drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft by the New York Yankees.

Click here to read more about the Bichettes.

Ke’Bryan Hayes joins father as major-leaguer

Ke’Bryan Hayes made his major-league debut with Pittsburgh on September 2, getting two hits in five plate appearances, including a home run and a double in an 11-inning loss to the Cubs. He was a first-round pick of the Pirates in 2015.

Ke’Bryan’s father Charlie Hayes was a 14-year veteran of the majors, splitting time across seven clubs. His best season was in 1993 with Colorado, when he led the league with 45 doubles and had career highs in home runs (25) and RBIs (98). Charlie was a member of the 1996 world champion New York Yankees.

Click here to read more about this father-son combo.