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 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.

Gavin Lux nephew of former Golden Spikes Award winner

Gavin Lux was named by Baseball America the Minor League Player of the Year. He received a call-up to the Los Angeles Dodgers in September and hit a home run in his major-league debut game. He was put on the Dodgers post-season roster and appeared in several games.

Lux is the nephew of Augie Schmidt, the Golden Spikes Award winner in 1982, playing for the University of New Orleans. Schmidt played in the minors for five seasons, reaching Triple-A in the Blue Jays organization.

Lux’s grandfather, August Schmidt, played two seasons in the minors in the Red Sox organization in 1956-57.

Click here to read more about Gavin Lux.

It’s good to have another Yastrzemski in baseball

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

Carl Yastrzemski had one of the best nicknames in baseball. Yaz. In between the careers of Ted Williams and David Ortiz, he was the most popular player in Boston. He delighted the Red Sox Nation for 23 seasons. He was a Triple Crown winner, an MVP, a three-time batting champion, and an 18-time all-star. A first ballot Hall of Famer.

It’s been 36 years since Yaz donned the Red Sox uniform. He didn’t have the controversy of Williams surrounding him or the flair of Ortiz’s relationship with the fans and media. In his quiet sort of way, Yaz approached the game in a workman-like manner and produced big results. All the same, he’s been missed. He turned 80 years old last week.

But now there’s a new Yastrzemski in baseball, Yaz’s grandson Mike. He was drafted out of high school by his grandpa’s team, but he chose to play baseball at Vanderbilt instead. After being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 14th round in 2013, he floundered somewhat in the minors for six seasons. He never really stood out, certainly not showing the potential of his grandfather.

The 28-year-old was traded to the San Francisco Giants during spring training this season. After hitting 12 home runs in his first 40 games for Triple-A Sacramento, he made his major-league debut with the San Francisco Giants on May 25. At the time, the Giants were seemingly on a path to repeat as the cellar dweller in the NL West, as they were nine games under .500.

Yastrzemski has responded with a break-out season and been a pleasant surprise in the Giants’ resurgence after the All-Star break. They are currently battling Arizona for second place, one game under .500, albeit 21 games behind division-leading Los Angeles.

His slash line with the Giants was .272/.320/.541 as of Saturday. He’s hit more home runs (17) in 73 games than he ever hit in a full season in the minors. Three of those came in a game on August 16 in the Giants 10-9 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks. His grandfather’s only three-homer game during his lengthy career came in his 15th season, on May 19, 1976, at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium.

Yastrzemski’s baseball bloodlines also includes his father, also named Mike, who was a secondary phase draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in January 1984. His father spent five seasons in the minors, eventually reaching the Triple-A level with the Chicago White Sox organization but never getting a shot in the big leagues. Grandpa Yastrzemski is quick to point out that he stayed in the background while his son was the one who helped young Mike learn the game.

Yastrzemski is one of five current players in the majors whose grandfather also played in the majors. Others include Charlie Culberson (Leon Culberson), Rick Porcello (Sam Dente), Derek Dietrich (Steve Demeter), and Nolan Fontana (Lew Burdette).

Will he be as good as his grandfather? Probably not, although Yaz’s career started out rather modestly too, with a 266/.324/.396 slash line in his rookie season in 1961. It’s too early to tell though. Perhaps Mike will be a late-bloomer.

In any case, it’s good to hear the Yastrzemski name being announced in the starting lineup in big league stadiums again. We needed another Yaz.

Ronald Acuna Jr. has extended baseball family

Atlanta Braves sensation Ronald Acuna Jr. knows baseball. He also knows family, especially his baseball family, which is one of the most extensive in professional baseball.  Ronald got to see most of them play in the Venezuelan Winter League while he was growing up.

He is the son of Ronald Acuna Sr., who played in the minors from 1999 to 2006.  His grandfather, Romualdo Blanco, also played in the minors from 1971 to 1977.

Four members of the Escobar family who played in the majors are related to Ronald Jr.:  Alcides, Kelvim, and Edwin are cousins, while Jose is his uncle.  Major-leaguer Vicente Campos is also a cousin.

Click here to read more about Ronald Acuna Jr. and his family from yahoo.com.

Luke Bell carries on the family tradition

Luke Bell was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 34th round of the 2019 MLB Draft. He happens to be the son of Mike Bell, who is the vice president of player development for the Diamondbacks.

Besides their father-son relationship, the bloodlines run even deeper in the Bell family. Luke’s grandfather, Buddy Bell, was a major-league player and manager for over 25 years. His great-grandfather, Gus, Bell, was a major league player for 15 years in the 1950s and early 1960s. Luke’s father played only one major-league season in 2000. His uncle, David, is currently manager of the Cincinnati Reds and also played in the majors for 12 seasons.

If Luke were to eventually make the majors, the Bell family would become the first to have four generations play in the MLB.

To read more about Luke Bell, click on the link below from Cronkite News: https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2019/07/09/luke-bell-diamondbacks-draft/

MLB draft keeps family ties pipeline filled

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

In some families, there is a legacy of sons following in their father’s footsteps as lawyers, doctors, farmers, and military servicemen, often spanning several generations.  Professional baseball is also one of those occupations where sons dream of playing their father’s game, ultimately hoping to reach the big leagues.

Major League Baseball’s annual amateur draft took place last week and realized plenty of opportunities to replenish the pipeline of new players who have family ties in the sport.  Over 60 players were drafted that have a relative who currently or previously played professional baseball.  Five of these had brothers who currently play in the big leagues.  28 are sons of former major leaguers.  Nephews, cousins, grandsons, and great-grandsons of former major leaguers, as well as relatives of minor league players, account for the balance.  All of these players contribute to an ever-growing pipeline of young men with family ties in baseball.

The 2019 MLB Draft was no different from past years in terms of interesting backgrounds of the drafted players.

Bobby Witt Jr. was the second overall pick of the draft by the Kansas City Royals.  His father Bobby Witt Sr. was a third-round pick in 1985, thus making them the highest ranked father-son duo in draft history.  An indication of how much things have changed in 34 years, the younger Witt stands to sign for over $7 million as a bonus, whereas his father received $179,000.  Other first-rounders with family ties this year were Logan Davidson (A’s), Alek Manoah (Blue Jays), Hunter Bishop (Giants) and Sammy Siani (Pirates).

Multiple generations of baseball families are becoming more common. This year, Grae Kessinger (grandson of Don Kessinger), Trei Cruz (grandson of Jose Cruz Sr.), and Luke Bell (grandson of Buddy Bell) were drafted.  In fact, if Luke Bell was to ultimately make the majors, he would become the fourth generation in his family to play, which has never occurred before.  His father is former major-leaguer Mike Bell, while his great-grandfather was Gus Bell, a major leaguer in the 1950s.  Other grandsons of major leaguers include Jonathan Allen (grandson of Don Landrum) and Ryan Berardino (grandson of Dwight Evans).  Berardino’s other grandfather, Dick Berardino, was a long-time minor-league coach and instructor in the Red Sox organization.

Eleven drafted players had more than one relative.  In addition to Kessinger, Cruz, and Bell, Nick Paciorek had three uncles (Tom, John, and Jim) who played in the big leagues.  Jack Leiter’s father (Al), uncle (Mark), and cousin (Mark Jr.) have played in the majors.

Brothers Jake (Yankees, 24th round) and Micah Pries (Indians, 13th round) were both selected in this year’s draft.  Their father Jeff was a minor-league player in the 1980s.

Braden Halladay, son of recently-elected Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, one of his father’s former teams.  However, the younger Halladay has already stated his intention to play for Penn State next year.

Yorvis Torrealba was selected by the Colorado Rockies.  His father, Yorvit, fairly recently retired from the game in 2014 at age 35.  Had the father been able to remain active a few more years, it would have potentially set up a situation where the father-son duo could have played in the majors at the same time.  There have been only two previous occasions of father-son combos accomplishing this feat:  Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and his father; and Hall of Famer Tim Raines and his son.

Several of the drafted players have relatives in the managerial and front office ranks of major-league teams.  Dylan Hoffman (son of Glenn Hoffman), Cole Roberts (son of Dave Roberts), and Nic Ready (son of Randy Ready) are the sons of major-league managers.  Cade Hunter, Davis Moore, Nate Bombach, and Chase Solesky are the sons of major-league scouts.  Jonah DiPoto is the son of Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto.

There were an additional 16 players selected that had relatives in sports other than professional baseball.  Blake Sabol (Pirates, 7th round) is the cousin of current NFL player Troy Polamalu, while Todd Lott (Nationals, 9th round) is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.  Jake Mangum’s (Mets, 4th round) father (John), grandfather (John Sr.), and uncle (Kris) were former NFL players.

Three drafted players had family ties with participants in the Olympic Games.  The mother of Oraj Anu (Red Sox, 16th round) was a sprinter representing the Bahamas in the 1984 Olympics.  Mason Janvrin’s (Orioles, 14th round) father was a decathlete in the 2000 Olympics for the United States.  Alex MacFarlane’s (Cardinals 25th round) mother participated in the 1988 Olympics in taekwondo for the US Virgin Islands.

The grandfather of Adley Rutschmann, the Number 1 overall pick of the draft by the Orioles, won NAIA national championships in both college football and baseball for tiny Linfield College in Oregon.

The entire list of 2019 draftees can be viewed at https://baseballrelatives.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/2019-mlb-drafted-players-v1-formatted.pdf