Contributed by Richard Cuicchi, 07/05/2016
Following the MLB Draft in June of every year, I try to identify those drafted amateur players who have a relative in professional baseball. I’ve found 48 players so far who fit this criteria this year. They represent the latest crop of relatives that have infused baseball rosters since the sport’s professional beginnings in the 1870s.
Every year there are intriguing backgrounds for several of the drafted players. This year is no exception. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of this year’s players with family ties in baseball.
One of the headliners in this year’s major-league draft class probably won’t attempt to play professional baseball at all. Trey Griffey was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 24th round, even though he hasn’t played baseball since grade school. He is currently a senior wide receiver for the University of Arizona. Trey has one of the most recognizable last names in baseball. His father is Ken Griffey Jr., who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame later this summer. His grandfather is Ken Griffey Sr., who was a 19-year veteran of the majors. The Mariners actually selected Trey as a tribute to his father, who played a significant portion of his career in Seattle, wearing uniform Number 24.
Torii Hunter Jr. is another college football player selected in this year’s draft, except he also played baseball, albeit sparingly, at Notre Dame for two seasons. His father is Torii Hunter Sr., who retired only last year after playing 19 years in the majors. Torii Jr. had been drafted out of high school in 2013 by the Detroit Tigers, but chose to attend Notre Dame to play football and baseball. However, football became his primary sport, as he has played on special teams and as a wide receiver. He wound up playing only a handful of baseball games for The Fighting Irish. Because of his athleticism and family bloodlines, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 23rd round this year and proceeded to sign a pro contract with them. He still intends to play football at Notre Dame this fall. Who knows? He may be the next Deion Sanders, who played professionally in both football and baseball.
Bo Bichette was encouraged by his father, Dante Bichette, to play tennis as a youngster, but he wound up following in his father’s baseball footsteps. Bo was drafted out of high school by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd round, after becoming one of the top prep pitchers in the country. The elder Bichette was a four-time major-league all-star during his 14-year career. Bo’s older brother, Dante Jr., is currently an infield prospect in the New York Yankees organization.
Cavan Biggio, son of 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Craig Biggio, was drafted this year by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 5th round. The infielder had previously been drafted out of high school in 2013 by the Phillies, but chose to attend college at Notre Dame, where he was a starter for three seasons. Cavan’s brother, Conor, was drafted last year by his father’s major league team, the Houston Astros, after also playing for Notre Dame, but he did not sign a pro contract.
Chad Hockin is the grandson of another Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew. He was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 6th round, after completing his third season as a pitcher for Cal State Fullerton. Grandfather Killebrew was one of the all-time great sluggers in baseball, recording 573 career home runs. He was selected to all-star teams on eleven occasions and was American League MVP in 1969. Chad’s brother, Grant, was a 2nd round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2014. His uncle, Cameron Killebrew, played in the Texas Rangers organization and unaffiliated baseball from 1978-1981.
Grae Kessinger is a third-generation baseball player that was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 26th round. His grandfather is Don Kessinger, a six-time all-star shortstop for the Chicago Cubs who also managed in the majors for the Chicago White Sox. Grae’s father is Kevin Kessinger, who played in the Cubs organization in 1989, while his uncle, Keith Kessinger, played part of one major-league season for the Cincinnati Reds in 1993. It is likely Grae will opt to attend Ole Miss on a baseball scholarship, where his grandfather, father, and uncle also played collegiately.
Brandon Bossard’s baseball bloodlines go back three generations before him. The shortstop was drafted out of high school by the Chicago White Sox in the 31st round. However, his forefathers didn’t play the game, but instead worked as groundskeepers for the White Sox. His great-grandfather, Emeril, was the first in the family to hold the position, followed by his grandfather, Gene, and his father, Roger, who is currently the head groundskeeper at U. S. Cellular Field.
JaVon Shelby, drafted by the Oakland A’s in the 5th round out of the University of Kentucky, also comes from a large baseball family. His father, John Shelby, was a big league outfielder from 1981 to 1991, primarily for the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers. JaVon has three brothers who also played baseball. John III played in the minors from 2006 to 2012 for the White Sox and Rays organizations, while Jeremy played briefly in the Orioles organization in 2010. Youngest brother Jaren, this year’s Gatorade Player of the Year in Kentucky, has signed a letter of intent to play for Kentucky next year and projects to be a future major league draft pick. JaVon’s cousins, Josh Harrison and Vince Harrison Jr., both played baseball professionally, with Josh currently playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Brothers Joshua and Nathaniel Lowe were both drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays. Joshua was a top high school third baseman in Georgia, while Nathaniel played first base for Mississippi State University. Joshua was selected in the first round, the 13th overall pick, and Nathaniel was picked in the 13th round. They are the sons of David Lowe, who was drafted out of high school by the Seattle Mariners in the 5th round in 1986, but did not play professional baseball.
Every year there are also a handful of major-league draftees whose bloodlines don’t include a baseball background. This year’s list includes pitcher Matt Manning, son of Rich Manning who played in the NBA for two seasons (1995-1996). Matt was a first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers. Pitcher Griffin Jax, the son of NFL linebacker Garth Jax (1986-1995), was the third-round pick of the Minnesota Twins. Outfielder Chris Bono, the 37th round pick of the San Francisco Giants, is the son of former NFL quarterback Steve Bono, a veteran of 14 pro seasons (1985-1999).
A full list of the players from the 2016 MLB Draft with relatives in professional baseball can be viewed at http://baseballrelatives.mlblogs.com/2016-family-ties/.
Contributed by Richard Cuicchi, June 17, 2016
On Father’s Day last year, I compiled a list of major-league all-stars who were fathers of major-league players. The mythical team represented a good look back in history at some dads who were among the best players in the game. There were some pretty good names on the list—Berra, Griffey, Bonds, Raines, and Rose.
To honor baseball dads this year, I’m taking a different twist on the same subject.
The all-star team I’ve compiled this time is indeed comprised of fathers who starred in the big-leagues. However, their sons, who are currently following in their dad’s baseball footsteps, are prospects still grinding their way through college and the minors.
Not that long ago, most of these sons were hanging out with their dads in major league clubhouses or shagging balls in the outfield during dad’s batting practices before games. Those early childhood experiences likely fueled their aspirations to ultimately join the ranks of “major leaguers” like their fathers.
On this Father’s Day, the tables will be turned, since these all-star dads will be pulling for their sons to pitch and hit well enough, so as to improve their chances of one day getting to the “Big Show” themselves.
Starting Pitcher – Roger Clemens won 354 career games and is 3rd on the all-time leader list in career strikeouts. He won the Cy Young Award a record seven times. Twice he struck out 20 batters in a game. He would already be in the Baseball Hall of Fame if it were not for his suspected involvement with PEDs. Three of Clemens’ sons have followed in his footsteps. (Note that all the sons’ names begin with “K” – the symbol for “strikeout.”) Kacy and Kody played for the University of Texas this year, after having been drafted by major league teams out of high school. Koby has played in the minors for the Astros and Blue Jays organizations and later in independent league baseball.
Relief Pitcher – Mariano Rivera is the all-time saves leader in baseball with 652. He pitched in seven World Series for the Yankees and recorded an astonishing 0.70 ERA and 42 saves during his post-season career that included 96 games. He is a lock to be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Mariano’s son, Mariano III, is a relief pitcher like his father. He was the 4th round pick of the Washington Nationals in 2015 and is currently pitching at the Class-A level.
Catcher – Mike Matheny played thirteen major league seasons for the Brewers, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Giants. While he never played at an all-star level during his career, Matheny developed a keen sense for the game that has allowed him to become one of the top young managers in major league baseball today. Matheny’s son, Tate, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2015, and the outfielder currently plays at the Class-A level. Mike has two other sons with futures in pro baseball. Jake has committed to play for Indiana University, while Luke has committed to Oklahoma State University.
First-Base – Rafael Palmeiro is one of only five players in history to get 3,000 hits and slam 500 home runs in his career. However, his fabulous career has been stained by failing a drug test during his last season. Consequently, he won’t likely get elected to what would have otherwise been a sure spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, his sons have put on the spikes to follow in dad’s footsteps. Patrick played in the Chicago White Sox organization for three seasons and is currently playing in the independent leagues. Last year, his 50-year-old father came out of retirement for one game to play with Patrick in a league game. Rafael’s other son, Preston, was drafted this year out of North Carolina State University by the Baltimore Orioles in the 7th round.
Second Base – Craig Biggio could have landed a spot on this imaginary all-star team at three different positions. He has the distinction of being a regular starter for the Houston Astros at three different positions during his career: catcher, second base, and centerfield. He attained all-star status as a catcher and second baseman. He compiled over 3,000 hits, 660 doubles, and 1,800 runs scored during a Hall of Fame career. Biggio coached his two sons in high school, and both went on to play baseball at the University of Notre Dame. Cavan was drafted this year by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 5th round. Conor was selected by his dad’s team, the Astros, in the 34th round of the 2015 draft.
Third Base – Dante Bichette was a four-time National League all-star for the Colorado Rockies and was runner-up in the MVP voting in 1995. He compiled a .299 batting average, 274 home runs, and 1,142 RBI during his 14-year career. Bichette, coached his son, Dante Jr., in the Little League World Series competition in 2005, and Dante Jr. is now playing in his sixth season in the New York Yankees organization. Bichette’s other son, Bo, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd round of this year’s draft.
Shortstop – Cal Ripken Jr. is the Hall of Fame shortstop best known for his consecutive game streak of 2,632 for the Baltimore Orioles. He was a 19-time all-star and two-time American League MVP. His physical size of 6’ 4” and 200 lbs. re-defined the shortstop position in the major leagues during the 1980s. Ripken comes from a baseball family, as his father was a long-time coach and manager of the Orioles, while his brother Billy played in twelve major league seasons as an infielder. Cal’s son, Ryan, was drafted in 2012 and then again in 2014, and is now playing at the Single-A level in the Washington Nationals organization.
Outfield – Vladimir Guerrero was often noted as wild-swinging hitter, but he managed to hit 449 home runs, drive in 1,496 runs, and hit for a .318 average during his sixteen-year career. He was the American League MVP in 2004 and was an all-star selection nine times. His performance should earn him a spot in Cooperstown. Guerrero’s 17-year-old son from the Dominican Republic, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., was one of the top international free agents last year and was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays for $3.9 million. However, he has yet to play in the minor leagues in the U. S. Guerrero Sr. had a brother who also played in the major leagues, and his nephew, Gabby Guerrero, is currently a top prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
Outfield – Carl Yastrzemski is one of the all-time great Boston Red Sox players. He’s in the Hall of Fame based on his career numbers of 452 home runs, 1,844 RBI, and .285 batting average. He was an all-star in three different decades, the Triple Crown winner in 1967, and MVP of the American League in 1967. He’s on my list of all-star dads, but in fact he is the grandfather of Mike Yastrzemski, currently playing at the Triple-A level in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Mike is a third-generation professional player, as his father, also named Mike, played five seasons of minor league baseball.
Outfield – Magglio Ordonez was a six-time all-star in the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers organizations. During his 15-year career, he managed to hit for a .309 average, slugged 294 home runs and 1,236 RBI. In 2007, he finished second in MVP voting in the American League. Ordonez’ 20-year-old son, Magglio Jr., played for Detroit’s rookie league team last season.
Manager – John Farrell is currently in his fourth year as manager of the Boston Red Sox, having claimed a World Series championship in 2013. A former major league pitcher, Farrell has three sons involved in professional baseball. Luke is currently pitching in the Kansas City Royals organization at the Triple-A level. Jeremy was drafted in 2008 and played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization last season. Shane was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, but chose a career as a pro scout, currently working in the Chicago Cubs organization. The three Farrell sons represent a third generation of ballplayers, as their grandfather, Tom, played briefly in the minors in the mid-1950s.
Each year there a number of sons, brothers, and cousins of current and former major-league players who are selected in the 2016 MLB Draft.
Bleacher Report provided an interesting assessment of the probabilities of several legacy prospects from the 2016 draft actually reaching the major-league level.
The assessment included the following drafted players who have relatives in pro baseball:
- Bo Bichette, son of Dante Bichette and brother Dante Bichette Jr.
- Cavan Biggio, son of Craig Biggio and brother of Conor Biggio
- Conner Capel, son of Mike Capel
- Trey Griffey, son of Ken Griffey Jr. and grandson of Ken Griffey Sr.
- Jacob Heyward, brother of Jason Heyward
- Torii Hunter Jr., son of Torii Hunter Sr.
- Preston Palmeiro, son of Rafael Palmeiro and brother of Patrick Palmeiro
- Cal Quantrill, son of Paul Quantrill
- Nick Shumpert, son of Terry Shumpert and cousin of Mookie Betts
For the full report see the link below from Bleacher Report:
Cavan Biggio and Preston Palmeiro were teammates for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League this summer. They both have some big footsteps to follow in baseball, since both of their fathers were major league all-stars who compiled over 3,000 hits in their careers.
During the school year, Biggio plays college baseball for Notre Dame, while Palmeiro competes for North Carolina State University.
Both players say it is both a blessing and a curse playing in their father’s shadows.
Read more about Biggio and Palmeiro at the link below from the Boston Globe:
Craig Biggio will be inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in late July as a veteran of the Houston Astros, where he played for twenty seasons. He was voted in this year, after coming within only a few votes of being elected in 2014.
2015 has also been a big season for two of Biggio’s sons. Conor finished his college career at the University of Notre Dame, earning three letters, while Cavan completed his second season with the Fighting Irish. They were both key players on the team.
Conor was drafted by his father’s team, the Astros, in the 34th round of this year’s Major League Draft. Cavan had been a previous pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013.
Read more about the Biggio family at the link below from baseballessential.com:
Conor and Cavan Biggio are both playing college baseball at Notre Dame. They were fortunate to have the influence of their father, Craig Biggio, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in January. Craig inspired them with faith, family values, and hard work, which has contributed to their success in high school and college athletics to date.
See related story about the Biggios at the link below from ncaa.com:
Craig Biggio was recently elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame for 2015. He garnered 82.7% of the votes, passing the minimum 75% required for induction. This came after Biggio fell two votes short in 2014. He spent his entire career with the Houston Astros from 1988 to 2007.
Biggio has two sons, Cavan and Conor, who are currently playing baseball at the University of Notre Dame. Cavan was a 29th round pick out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013.
See related story about Craig Biggio at the link below from nj.com:
Also search this MLB Baseball’s Relatives site for additional articles about the Biggio family.