Tyler Soderstrom a first-round draft pick like his father

Tyler Soderstrom was the first-round selection of the Oakland A’s in the 2020 MLB Draft. The high school catcher from Turlock, CA is the son of Steve Soderstrom, who was the sixth overall pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 1993 draft. Steve wound up pitching briefly for the Giants in 1996.

The father-son duo became only the tenth in major-league history to be selected in the first rounds.

Click here to read more about Tyler Soderstrom.

Third-round draft pick Trei Cruz could make it a three-generation MLB family

Trei Cruz was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the third round of the 2020 MLB Draft. He had been an infielder at Rice University for the past three seasons.

He is the son of Jose Cruz Jr., who had been a first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 1995 after a college career at Rice. His father went on to a 12-year career in the majors that included one Gold Glove. He was also the runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 1997,

Trei is the grandson of Jose Cruz Sr., who played 19 seasons in the major, primarily with the Astros and Cardinals. Cruz Sr., whose brothers Tommy and Hector were also major leaguers, was a two-time National League all-star.

If Trei eventually makes it to the majors, the Cruz family would become only the fifth three-generation family in major-league history.

For more information about Trei Cruz, click here.

Griffeys were first-ever father-son MLB teammates

In my research for my book Family Ties about baseball’s relatives a few years ago, I came across hundreds of facts about father-son combos and brother combos over the course of baseball history.  The most fascinating for me was the game in which Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. played as teammates in 1990.  It was the first time that situation had ever occurred, and it has only been accomplished once more since the Griffeys.

When you think about what must transpire for this feat to occur, there are several factors that must fall in place at the right time.  The father must have a lengthy career, at least 20 years as a professional.  The son must begin his pro career right out of high school and reach the big leagues by age 20 or 21.  For the father and son to be major-league teammates, a team will likely be compelled to go out of its way to bring them together at the same time.

The odds of all these factors happening are extremely high, especially when you consider there have only been 200+ father-son duos in the history of the majors.

Griffey Jr. was the No. 1 overall pick out of high school by the Seattle Mariners in the 1987 MLB Draft.  He made his major league debut at 19 years of age in 1989 and joined his father Ken Griffey Sr. (with Cincinnati) as the first father-son combo to play in the majors at the same time.  A year later Griffey Jr. was an American League All-Star and one of the most promising stars in baseball.

Griffey Sr. had been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1969 and made his major-league debut with them in 1973. He became part of Cincinnati’s dynasty teams of the 1970s known as the Big Red Machine.  His career took him to the Yankees, Braves, and back to the Reds by 1988.  By then he was on the downside of his career, serving as a pinch-hitter and occasional starter in the outfield and at first base.  However, he provided a valuable veteran presence in the Reds clubhouse.

In mid-August 1990, the Reds informed Griffey Sr. he was at risk of losing his roster spot. He decided to announce his retirement on August 18, in order to help the club with a roster problem. With the prospect of Griffey Sr. being able to team up with his son for Seattle, the Reds agreed to take him off the voluntarily retired list and put him on waivers, so that he could become eligible to play for another club. When Seattle signed him on August 29, Mariners manager Jim Lefebvre insisted Griffey Sr.’s signing was not a publicity stunt. He said, “This is not a dog-and-pony show.  We’re looking for a spark.” The Mariners were looking to capture their first-ever winning season since joining the league in 1977.

Their historical first game as teammates occurred on August 31 against Kansas City. 40-year-old Griffey Sr. played left field and batted second in the lineup, while Junior took his normal centerfield position and batted third.

Facing Royals right-handed pitcher Storm Davis, both father and son singled in the bottom of the first inning and later scored to help the Mariners take a 3-0 lead. They both went hitless during the remainder of the game that the Mariners won 5-2.

On September 14, the father-son duo hit back-to-back home runs in the top of the first inning in the Mariners’ game against the California Angels.

Griffey Sr. didn’t hang up his spikes after the 1990 season. He returned with the Mariners in 1991, where he continued to team up with his son until May 31, when he retired after 19 major-league seasons.

Over a decade later, in 2001, 41-year-old Tim Raines and his son 21-year-old Tim Raines Jr., became the second father-son duo to play as teammates in the same game. Raines Jr. was called up late in the season by the Baltimore Orioles, who then made a request to Montreal to trade for his father. On October 3 against Toronto, Raines Sr. made a pinch-hit appearance, while his son was the starting centerfielder. Both father and son started the next day as outfielders against the Boston Red Sox. Raines Sr. retired in 2002 after 23 seasons in the majors.

On at least two other occasions, father-son combos were active players at the same time, although only the fathers were in the majors. Juan Beniquez played in the majors until 1988 (his 17th major-league season), while his 18-year-old son was in his second season in the Kansas City Royals farm system. Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez was active in 2011 (his 21st major-league season), when his 19-year-old son was a rookie in the Twins minor-league system.

Following are examples of other noteworthy father-son duos.

49-year-old pitcher Jamie Moyer was still playing in the majors in 2012 when his son Dillon was drafted out of high school but opted to attend college instead.

45-year-old Fernando Valenzuela and his 23-year-old son Fernando Jr. played together for Mexicali in the Mexican League in 2006. The elder Valenzuela had been a major-league pitching star from 1980-1997, amassing 173 career wins.

53-year-old Rafael Palmeiro and his 28-year-old son Patrick were teammates for independent league team Cleburne Railroaders in 2018. The elder Palmeiro had been a 20-year major-league veteran, collecting over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.

Hank Steinbrenner dies at age 63

Hank Steinbrenner, son of George Steinbrenner, died on April 14 at age 63. He and his brother Hal followed in their father’s footsteps as partnership owners of the the New York Yankees, along with other family members.

Hank shared in the responsibility of overseeing and directing the team’s on- and off-field strategies, while Hal was the managing general partner.

George was the owner of the Yankees from 1973 to 2010.

Click here for Hank’s obituary in the New York Times.

Terry Kennedy outperformed his father Bob as major league player

Former major league catcher Terry Kennedy was a four-time all-star and had two World Series appearances (1984 Padres and 1989 Giants), although both were in losing situations. He finished with a career slash line of .261/.314/.386, 113 home runs and 638 RBIs.

Terry’s father, Bob, played in the majors from 1939 to 1957. Bob was never an all-star but did play for 1948 World Series winner Cleveland Indians. He went on to manage briefly for the Cubs and A’s and served in the front offices of the Cubs, Cardinals, Mariners, Astros, and Giants organizations.

Terry was a minor-league manager for 12 seasons, most recently in the Padres organization in 2012.

Click here for an article in Sports Illustrated about the Kennedys.

Henry Aaron carried the weight on list of brothers with most all-time home runs.

If you’ve followed baseball during the past 50 years, you know Henry Aaron was the all-time home run king until Barry Bonds broke his record in 2007. For many fans, Aaron is still considered the career leader, because of the suspicion that Bonds’s numbers were influenced by the use of PEDs.

Aaron’s brother, Tommie, played in the majors from 1962 to 1971 as Henry’s teammate with the Braves. However, he manged to hit only 13 career home runs in 437 games, while Henry hammered out 755. Together they hold the record for brother combos.

The next closest set of brothers was Eddie and Rich Murray, who combined for 508.

Father-son combo Barry and Bobby Bonds amassed 1,094 home runs between them, with Bobby accumulating 332.

Ken Griffey Jr. and his father, Ken Griffey Sr. combined for 782, of course with Junior carrying the load with 630.

For more information about the Aaron brothers, click here for an article from Sportscasting.com.

Jack Leiter chooses collegiate path to the big leagues

Jack Leiter was drafted out of high school in the 20th round by the New York Yankees in the 2019 MLB Draft. However, he bypassed signing a contract and chose to attend Vanderbilt University to play baseball.

Jack’s father, Al Leiter, was similarly drafted out of high school by the Yankees in 1984, except he was a second-round selection that inked a contract as an 18-year-old. The elder Leiter went on to log 19 major-league seasons with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Mets, and Marlins. He finished with a 162-132 record and 3.80 ERA, winning World Series title with the Blue Jays and Marlins.

Jack’s collegiate debut with Vandy this season included five no-hit innings with a dozen strikeouts. Not a bad start!

Jack’s uncle Mark Leiter and cousin Mark Leiter Jr. have both appeared in the majors.

To read more about Jack and Al Leiter clicks on these links: Vandy debut and Like Father, Like Son

Dusty Baker’s new job interrupts watching son Darren play collegiately

Before Dusty Baker got his new job as manager of the Houston Astros, he was spending time watching his son Darren play for the University of California. Daren is currently a junior and has thoughts of following his dad into the professional ranks. Dusty will now have to get reports of his son’s games via the press or video replay.

Darren first gained notoriety as the batboy for his father’s team, San Francisco Giants, in the 2002 World Series. Little Darren was swept up by J. T. Snow, who was the on-deck batter, as a Giants runner was headed for home, destined for a collision with the youngster who was picking up the bat at home plate. Fortunately, Darren escaped injury due to Snow’s quick thinking.

For more information about Darren and Dusty Baker, click here.

Luis Rojas adds to family’s baseball heritage

Luis Rojas was recently named the manager of the New York Mets, filling the vacancy created when Carlos Beltran stepped down as manager for his involvement in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal.

Rojas is the son of Felipe Alou, a long-time major-league player and manager. They become only the sixth set of father-son combos to manage at the major-league level. The others include Buddy and David Bell, Bob and Aaron Boone, Bob and Joel Skinner, George and Dick Sisler, and Connie and Earle Mack.

Rojas is also the brother of Moises Alou, who was a major-leaguer from 1990-2008.

Rojas’s uncles include Matty Alou and Jesus Alou, who also played during the same timeframe as brother Felipe.

Read more about Rojas’s new managerial job and family background at the below links:

https://nypost.com/2020/01/25/mets-luis-rojas-earning-place-in-family-dynasty-had-to-be-a-manager/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2020/01/24/new-mets-manager-luis-rojas-thanks-famous-father-brother/41060079/

https://nypost.com/2020/01/22/who-is-luis-rojas-new-mets-manager-is-rising-star-with-baseball-in-his-blood/

https://nypost.com/2020/01/22/felipe-alou-my-son-luis-rojas-is-ready-and-wont-cheat-the-game/

https://nypost.com/2020/01/22/mets-hiring-luis-rojas-gets-seal-of-approval-from-bruce-bochy/

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).