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.

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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

Baseball’s bloodlines are booming

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

I’ve used this blog in the past to publicize the prevalence of major-league players with family ties in the sport.  Within the last two weeks that situation has never been more evident, and it has included some of baseball’s biggest names.

The promotion to the big leagues of a young player who has relatives in the game brings up the age-old debate of whether the player has benefitted from having good genes or being the product of a baseball environment in which they grew up.  In my book Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, I quoted Phil Pote, a scout for the Seattle Mariners, who probably summed up the situation the best, “I think genes give the potential and the environment sets how close to the potential you might reach.  A kid could be in Afghanistan and have great genes; I mean great quickness, the hand-eye coordination, balance, and agility, whatever.  But if he doesn’t have the environment no one would ever know, including him.”

Several of the players from strong baseball backgrounds involving multiple family relationships recently received big-league promotions.

Mike Yastrzemski made his major-league debut on May 25 for the San Francisco Giants.  The outfielder is the third generation of his family in the sport.  His grandfather, Carl, is one of the most recognizable names in Boston Red Sox history and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame after 23 major-league seasons.  Mike’s father, also named Mike, played five seasons in the minors, reaching the Triple-A level in the Chicago White Sox organization.

Cavan Biggio made his debut on May 24 for the Toronto Blue Jays.  He made history when he and Blue Jays teammate Vlad Guerrero Jr. became the first pair of major-league teammates to have fathers in the Hall of Fame.  The second baseman recorded his first big-league home run in his third major-league game.  Cavan’s father, Craig, was a seven-time all-star in his 20 seasons for Houston Astros.  He collected over 3,000 hits and 600 doubles during his career.   Cavan’s brother, Conor, was selected by the Houston Astros in the 34th round of the 2015 MLB Draft, but did not sign.

Arizona Diamondback first baseman Kevin Cron made his debut on May 24.  He had 21 home runs and 62 RBI in the minors this season before his call-up.  Kevin’s father, Chris, played briefly in the majors in 1991 and 1992 for the California Angels and Chicago White Sox.  Chris is in his 20th season as a minor-league manager and was managing Kevin with the Reno Aces at the time of his call-up.  Kevin’s brother, C. J., is currently a major-leaguer with the Minnesota Twins.  Kevin is in his sixth big-league season after being a first-round draft selection of the Los Angeles Angels.

In only his third pro season, pitcher Zach Plesac made his major-league debut with the Cleveland Indians on May 28.  Zach is the nephew of former major-league pitcher Dan Plesac, who played 18 seasons for six different clubs.  Zach’s father, Joe, played six seasons in the San Diego Padres organization following his second-round draft selection in 1982.

Two other recent big-league promotions involved players with brothers in pro baseball.

On May 24, Canadian-born Josh Naylor made his debut with the San Diego Padres.  He was the first-round pick of the Florida Marlins in 2015.  He is the brother of Bo Naylor, who was the first-round pick of the Cleveland Indians last year.

Mitch Keller made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 27.  He struck out seven batters in four innings pitched, but took the loss against the Cincinnati Reds.  He is the brother of Jon Keller, who pitched for five seasons the Baltimore Orioles minor-league system.

Earlier this year, Vlad Guerrero Jr. had the most anticipated major-league debut since Bryce Harper.  Guerrero had been the Minor League Player of the Year in 2018 as a 19-year-old.  He got his promotion on April 26 with the Toronto Blue Jays and has since showed his potential with six home runs.  Guerrero Jr. is the son of recently elected Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr., the nephew of former major-leaguer Wilton Guerrero, and the cousin of 2018 major-leaguer Gabriel Guerrero.

Other players with family ties who made their MLB debuts earlier this season include:

Fernando Tatis Jr., shortstop with the San Diego Padres, is the son of 11-year veteran Fernando Tatis Sr., who hit 34 HRs and 107 RBIs in 1999.

Cal Quantrill, pitcher with the San Diego Padres, is the son of former major-league pitcher Paul Quantrill, a 14-year veteran who led the American League in appearances for four consecutive years

Josh Fuentes, infielder with the Colorado Rockies, made his debut in a game in which his cousin, all-star third baseman Nolan Arenado, also played.

Carter Kieboom, shortstop with the Washington Nationals, is the brother of major-league Spencer Kieboom, who also plays in the Nationals system.

Kyle Zimmer, pitcher with the Kansas City Royals, is the brother of major-leaguer Bradley Zimmer, who made his MLB debut in 2017.

Nate Lowe, first baseman with the Tampa Bay Rays, is the brother of minor-leaguer Josh Lowe, who also plays in the Rays organization and projects to be a future major-leaguer.

The Toronto Blue Jays have a potentially interesting situation developing in their organization.  Already with three players with family ties on their big-league roster (Guerrero Jr., Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.), the Blue Jays also have Bo Bichette at the Triple-A level in their minor league system.  Bichette is the son of Dante Bichette, former four-time all-star and 1995 National League MVP runner-up.  When the younger Bichette is called up, the foursome will form a complete Blue Jays infield of players with baseball bloodlines.

Mike Yastrzemski becomes major leaguer like his grandpa

Mike Yastrzemski made his major-league debut for the San Francisco Giants on May 25. His grandfather, Carl Yastrzemski, was a Hall of Fame outfielder for the Boston Red Sox from 1961 to 1983.

Mike’s father, also named Mike, had been a minor-league player from 1984 to 1988, reaching the Triple-A level for the Chicago White Sox.

Mike Jr. ,who is in his seventh pro season, went 3-for-4 in his next game on May 26.

For more information about Mike Yastrzemski, follow the link below from mlb.com: https://www.mlb.com/cut4/mike-yastrzemski-gets-first-hit-is-picked-off

Luke Leftwich aims to join elite group

Pitcher Luke Leftwich is currently playing at the Triple-A level in the Phillies organization. He was a seventh-round pick of the Phillies in 2015.

If Leftwich reaches the majors, his family will become part of history as one of only six three-generation families to play in the majors. Leftwich’s father, Phil, played three seasons with the California Angels in the 1990s. His grandfather is Tom Timmermann, who pitched six major-league seasons from 1969 to 1974.

The other three-generation families include the Bell, Boone, Coleman, Hairston, and Schofield/Werth families.

Read more about Luke Leftwich at the following link from philly.com: https://www.philly.com/phillies/luke-leftwich-phillies-minor-leagues-phil-tom-timmermann-adoption-20190509.html

Trei Cruz aims to be a third-generation MLer

Trei Cruz is currently playing baseball for Rice University, where his father also played. Jose Cruz Jr. was a first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners out of Rice in the 1995 MLB Draft. Trei’s father went on to play 12 major-league season for nine different clubs.

Trei’s grandfather, Jose Cruz Sr., was a major-leaguer for 19 seasons, primarily with the Houston Astros. Trei’s great-uncles, Tommy and Hector, also briefly play in the majors, too.

If Trei manages to get to the big leagues someday, his family will become only the fifth three-generation family to play.

For more information about Trei Cruz, follow the link below from The Rice Thresher:

http://www.ricethresher.org/article/2019/02/baseball-preview-trei-cruz-carries-on-family-legacy