Family Ties Flourishing in Baseball – Washington Nationals

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

This is the seventh in a series of reviews that will take a look at family relationships in each of the thirty major-league organizations.

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 of them 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, as well.

The heritage of the Nationals’ started with the Montreal Expos, its predecessor prior to the franchise’s move to Washington for the 2005 season. The Expos were filled with examples of players and non-players that had relatives in baseball.  Some of the more noteworthy ones include:

Andre Dawson is arguably the best player in the Expos’ history.  In his eleven seasons with them, he compiled 225 home runs, 838 RBI, and 253 stolen bases, while hitting .280.  He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1977.  In 1987 with the Chicago Cubs, he led the National League in home runs and RBI as the league’s MVP.  Dawson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.  He is currently a special assistant with the Miami Marlins.  He is the nephew of Theodore Taylor, who played one minor league season in 1950.

Delino DeShields Sr., a speedy infielder, got his major league start with the Expos in 1990 when he was runner-up as the league’s Rookie of the Year.  In his 13-year career, he stole 464 bases and collected over 1,500 hits.  His son, Delino Jr., was the first-round pick of the Houston Astros in 2010 and completed his second major-league season with the Texas Rangers last year as an outfielder.

Vladimir Guerrero played eight seasons with the Expos from 1996 to 2003.  He had a career batting average of .323 with the Expos, while hitting 234 home runs and 702 RBI.  Over the course of his 16-year career, the outfielder hit .318 to go along with 449 home runs and 1,496 RBI.  Guerrero was nearly elected the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2017, when he garnered 71.7% of the votes.  Guerrero’s brother, Wilton, played alongside his brother at Montreal from 1998 to 2000 and went on to have an eight-year career, compiling a .282 batting average.  Another brother, Julio, played in the Red Sox minor-league system from 1998 to 2001.  Vladimir’s son, also named Vladimir, made his professional debut as a 17-year-old with the Toronto Blue Jays organization last year.  His nephew, Gabriel, reached the Triple-A level in the Diamondbacks organization last year.

Joe Kerrigan pitched two of his four major-league seasons as a relief pitcher with the Expos.  He went on to have a long career as a pitching coach for five major-league seasons.  Kerrigan managed the Boston Red Sox for part of the 2001 season.  Joe’s son, Joe, was infielder in the Red Sox minor-leagues from 1999 to 2001, followed by two seasons in the independent leagues.  Joe’s brother, Thomas, played in the Philadelphia Phillies organization from 1963 to 1964.

Tim Raines had a Baseball Hall of Fame career that included thirteen seasons with the Expos.  He led the National League in stolen bases in four consecutive seasons while playing with the Expos.  Raines currently ranks 5th on the all-time stolen base leaders.  During his 23-year major-league career, the outfielder batted .294 and was named to seven all-star teams.  Tim’s son, Tim Jr., played parts of three major-league seasons with the Baltimore Orioles.  In 2001, the Raines father-son combo became the second in history to play on the same major-league team.  Tim’s brother, Ned, played in the minors from 1978 to 1980.

Tim Wallach was one of the longest-tenured Expos players, logging thirteen seasons from 1980 to 1992.  With the Expos, he hit 204 home runs and 905 RBI.  He was a five-time all-star and three-time Gold Glove winner as a third baseman.  Tim was the bench coach for the Miami Marlins in 2016.  Tim has three sons who pursued professional baseball careers: Chad is currently in the Cincinnati Reds organization; Brett last played in 2015 in the independent leagues; and Matt last played in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in 2013.

Fast-forwarding to more recent times, below are some highlights of baseball relatives in the Nationals organization during 2016.

Stephen Drew played as a backup infielder with the Nationals last season, his 11th in the majors.  The shortstop is one of three brothers to be drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft.  Stephen was the 2004 pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  His brother, J. D., was twice drafted in the first round, in 1997 by the Philadelphia Phillies and 1998 by the St. Louis Cardinals.  J. D. was a member of the 2007 World Series champion Boston Red Sox and wound up playing in fourteen major-league seasons as an outfielder.  Stephen’s brother, Tim, was the first-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 1997.  He pitched in parts of five seasons with three different teams.

Bryce Harper was one of the most highly-touted prospects ever to enter the major leagues.  As a 19-year-old, he made his major-league debut with the Nationals in 2012 and won National League Rookie of the Year honors.  He was voted the NL MVP in 2015 and already has four all-star selections under his belt.  His brother, Bryan, is a relief pitcher in the Nationals organization, splitting last season between Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg.

Daniel Murphy turned in the best season of his career in his first year with the Nationals in 2016.  He was runner-up in the National League MVP Award voting based on his 25 home runs, 104 RBI, and .347 batting average.  He had an historic post-season in 2015 with seven home runs in helping the New York Mets to the World Series.  Daniel’s brother, John, was an outfielder in the Twins organization from 2012 to 2014.

Wilson Ramos had career highs in his seventh season with the Nationals last year.  He hit 22 home runs, 80 RBI and .307 average.is seventh with the team.  He was selected to the all-star team and collected the Silver Slugger Award for National League catchers.  However, Wilson tore his ACL in September. He was granted free agency and signed with Tampa Bay Rays over the winter.  Wilson’s brother, David, is a relief pitcher in the Nationals farm system, while his brother, Natanael, is a catcher in the Mets organization.

Joe Ross finished with a 7-4 record in 19 starts with the Nationals last year.  The 23-year-old right-hander had been a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres in 2011.  His brother, Tyson, missed practically all of the 2016 season with the San Diego Padres due to shoulder problems, after having been their best pitcher the two previous seasons.  Tyson was signed by the Texas Rangers as a free agent during the offseason.

Jayson Werth was in this sixth year of a seven-year contract with the Nationals last year, when he hit 21 home runs and 69 RBI.  He part of a three-generation family of ballplayers from his mother’s side of the family.  His grandfather, Dick “Ducky” Schofield, was a major-league utility infielder from 1953 to 1971, primarily with the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.  Jayson’s uncle, Dick Schofield, was a 14-year major-league shortstop, with twelve of his seasons playing for the California Angels.  He is the stepson of Dennis Werth, a first baseman who played parts of four major-league seasons from 1979 to 1982 with the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals.  Jayson’s father, Jeff Gowan, played a minor league season in the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 1978.

The Nationals’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives played professionally, several of them with famous last names in baseball.

Cody Dent, in his fourth seasons with the Nationals farm system, is the son of Bucky Dent, who hit the dramatic three-run home run for the New York Yankees in the 1978 American League East tie-breaker win against the Boston Red Sox.

Cutter Dykstra, an outfielder with Washington’s Double-A Harrisburg affiliate last year, is the son of Lenny Dykstra, the scrappy outfielder of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets and a three-time all-star, and the brother of Luke Dykstra, an infielder currently in the Atlanta Braves organization.

Carter Kieboom, the Nationals’ first-round draft pick last year, is the brother of Spencer Kieboom who made his major-league debut with the Nats in 2016.

Jaron Long, a pitcher at the Triple-A level for the Nationals last season, is the son of Kevin Long, who is the hitting coach for the New York Mets.

Ryan Ripken, who completed his third minor-league season with the Nationals in 2016, is the son of Cal Ripken Jr., the Hall of Fame shortstop of the Baltimore Orioles.  He is the nephew of Billy Ripken, former major league infielder from 1987 to 1998 and the grandson of former Orioles coach and manager, Cal Ripken Sr.

Mariano Rivera III was the fourth-round pick of the Nationals in 2015.  Last year he pitched in 39 games for Single-A Hagerstown, recording five wins and eight saves.  He is the son of Mariano Rivera, the legendary relief pitcher of the New York Yankees who retired in 2013.

Matt Skole was an infielder with the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate Syracuse in 2016, when he hit 24 home runs and 78 RBI.  He is the brother of Jake Skole, an outfielder in the New York Yankees farm system, and the grandson of Tom Skole, who played in the St. Louis Browns organization in 1951-1952.

The 2016 Nationals had their share of baseball relatives in the dugout and front office, too.

Dusty Baker spent his first year as the Nationals manager last season, after twenty years of managing the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, and Cincinnati Reds.  He also played nineteen seasons in the majors.  While managing the Giants during the 2002 World Series, Dusty’s son, Darren, was a batboy who was swept up by the Giants’ J. T. Snow to avoid a collision at home plate where another Giants base-runner was in the process of scoring.  Darren is now playing baseball at the University of California.

Bob Boone is a senior advisor to the Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo.  He was a major-league catcher for nineteen years (1972-1990), including four all-star and seven Gold Glove Award seasons.  Bob managed in the majors for six seasons, splitting his time between the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds.  Two of Bob’s sons, Bret and Aaron, had lengthy major league careers as infielders which included all-star seasons, while another son, Matt, played seven seasons in the minors.  Bob’s father, Ray, was a major league infielder from 1948 to 1960, including all-star seasons in 1954 and 1956.

Billy Gardner Jr. was the manager of the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate Syracuse in 2016.  He has been a minor-league coach and manager since 1990 with numerous organizations.  His father, Billy Gardner Sr., was a major-league player for ten seasons and a manager for six seasons, primarily with the Minnesota Twins.

Mike Maddux was in his first season as the Nationals pitching coach last year, after seven years in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers.  He had a 15-year career as a pitcher with nine different teams.  He is the brother of Greg Maddux, the Hall of Fame pitcher who won 355 career games and four Cy Young awards.

Kasey McKeon was the Nationals’ director of player procurement last season.  He previously played in the minors from 1989 to 1991 and held positions in scouting and player development for several major-league organizations.  His father is former major-league manager and executive Jack McKeon.  At age 72, he managed the Florida Marlins to a World Series title in 2003.  Kasey’s brother-in-law is former major-league pitcher Greg Booker.  Kasey is the nephew of Bill McKeon, former minor league player and a major-league scout.  He is the uncle of Zach Booker, a minor-league player from 2007 to 2011.

Calvin Minasian was the minor-league clubhouse and equipment manager for the Nationals last year.  His father, Zach Sr. had been the equipment manager in the Texas Rangers organization for over twenty years.  His brother, Zach Jr. is a scouting executive in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, while brother Perry was a scouting executive in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.  Altogether, the Minasian family has over 90 years of service in professional baseball.

Sam Narron was a minor league coach in the Nationals organization last year, and he comes from a family with an extensive background in baseball.  His father, Samuel “Rooster” Narron, played in the minors in 1967 and 1969 with the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles organizations.  His grandfather, Sam, played briefly for the St. Louis Cardinals in parts of three seasons between 1935 and 1943.  His uncle, Milton, played in the New York Giants’ farm system from 1946 to 1951.  Sam’s cousin, Jerry, was a major league player, coach, and manager in over forty years in the game.  His cousin, Johnny, is currently a minor league coordinator in the Los Angeles Angels organization, having previously been a major-league coach for Cincinnati, Texas, and Milwaukee.  His cousin, Connor, was a fifth-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2010 and played five seasons in the Orioles and Brewers organizations.

Mike Rizzo is currently the General Manager and President of Baseball Operations for the Nationals.  He has had a long career in scouting, as has his father, Phillip, who is currently a special advisor to Mike. Mike’s grandfather, Vito, also had a background in baseball scouting.

Chris Speier was the bench coach for the Nationals last year.  He played in the infield for five major-league teams during 1971 to 1989 and was selected an all-star three times.  His son, Justin, was a major-league middle relief pitcher from 1998 to 2009.  His nephew, Gabe, is currently a pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

Baseball’s Relatives Website

The entire list of 2016 active major and minor league players and non-players can be retrieved at:

https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/2016-family-ties/

 

 

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Baseball’s Old-Timers Still Impacting the Game Through Their Descendants

Harmon Killebrew. Carl Yastrzemski. Bob Feller. Bill Mazeroski. They were among some of the greatest stars of yesteryear. Although they hung up their cleats several decades ago, they are still impacting the game of baseball today. But that lasting impact has been through their descendants, who have followed in the footsteps of their fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers, and are currently active within the same sport.

The game is filled with abundant examples of family ties. In 2016, there were over 700 players in the majors and minors who have a relative in baseball. Furthermore, there were over 800 managers, coaches, scouts, executives, and front office personnel who had a relative in baseball. As expected, many of them currently playing are brothers or sons of current or recent baseball players, managers or coaches. But one might be surprised to know how many are also players whose grandfathers, great uncles, or great-grandfathers donned the uniform and spikes many years before them.

For these families, baseball has been a profession, not unlike families with multiple generations of doctors, lawyers, farmers, or military servicemen. Moreover, the roles of the relatives extend beyond the playing field to include jobs like broadcasters, umpires, groundskeepers, clubhouse personnel, and front office positions.

Baseball became a lifelong profession for many players who were able to translate their skills and experience on the field to post-playing careers as managers, coaches, scouts, and player development executives. Hence, it was only natural they would encourage their sons and grandsons to follow in their footsteps in some aspect of the sport, even if not as a player. Now we are seeing examples of daughters of baseball professionals pursuing careers in the sport.

There are many examples of fathers who got their chance to player minor league baseball following high school or college, but were never quite good enough to land a spot on a major league roster. So they wound up fulfilling their own dream by encouraging their sons at an early age to pursue a professional career.

Then there are cases where a father or grandfather had a substantial major league career and their son or grandson was drafted by a major league organization, usually in a late round as a courtesy pick, because the son or grandson didn’t actually project to have the skills of a potential major leaguer. The draftee usually doesn’t wound up pursuing a pro career.

An over-arching factor for many of these family relationships in baseball is the strong loyalty or preference within the baseball community to hire and promote family members. Again, similar to families of lawyers and doctors, the baseball pedigree of a father, uncle, or grandfather is often a consideration by hiring organizations, because they know the family’s history and background.

Scanning the current list of active players, as well as people in non-playing roles within the game (such as managers, coaches, scouts, and front-office personnel), shows some interesting baseball backgrounds.

The great-great nephew of legendary player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, from the infamous Chicago “Black Sox” scandal team which threw the 1919 World Series, is currently a prospect in the Texas Rangers organization. His name is also Joe Jackson, and he was a fifth-round draft selection of the Rangers in 2013.

Related to another famous event in baseball history, Kyle Gaedele played in an independent league in 2016, after having spent four seasons in the San Diego Padres organization. Kyle is the great-nephew of Eddie Gaedel, the legendary midget who appeared in a game for the St. Louis Browns in 1951 as a stunt by then-owner Bill Veeck.

Garland Buckeye pitched in the majors for five seasons during 1918 to 1928. He is the great-grandfather of current Boston Red Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz, as well as Drew’s brother, Stu, who appeared in three major league games in 2012. The brothers attained big league status even though their father, Michael, and uncle, Patrick, weren’t successful in landing a spot on a major league roster after having brief careers in the minor in the 1980s.

Charlie Culberson, who currently plays in the infield for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the grandson of Leon Culberson, who largely got his opportunity to play in the majors for the Boston Red Sox during World War II when Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio were in the military service. In the 1946 World Series with the Red Sox, Culberson was involved as the outfielder in the play in which the Cardinals’ Enos Slaughter made his dramatic “mad dash” from first base to score on a hit that won Game 7 of the Series. The elder Culberson also had a brother who played pro baseball in 1947.

Mickey Moniak was the first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016. His grandfather, Bill Moniak, played briefly in the Boston Red Sox minor league organization, where he received batting tips from the great hitter Ted Williams.

Bill Freehan and Al Kaline were all-star teammates in the 1960s and 1970s with the Detroit Tigers. Their grandsons also pursued major league careers with the Tigers organization after attending college. Freehan’s grandson, Blaise Salter, is a current minor leaguer, while Kaline’s grandson, Colin Kaline, was a former prospect.

There have only been a handful of families in major league history with three generations (grandfather, son, and grandson) of major league players, including the Bells, Boones, Hairstons and Colemans. However, there have been numerous families over the years that have come close to achieving this distinction.

For example, Ryan Ripken is currently playing in the minors with the Washington Nationals organization. He is the son of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and grandson of Cal Ripken Sr., who managed Baltimore Orioles teams in the 1980s that included his sons Cal Jr. and Billy. As a side note, Ryan’s teammates with minor league club in Hagerstown included Mariano Rivera III and Cody Dent, sons of former majors Mariano Rivera and Bucky Dent, respectively. Ryan’s brother, Patrick, is currently playing for North Carolina State University.

Joey Fregosi Jr. was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2016, and he is the son of Jim Fregosi Jr., currently a special assistant with the Houston Astros. Joey’s grandfather, Jim Fregosi Sr., was a six-time all-star as a major league player and a manager for fifteen seasons with the Angels, Phillies, White Sox, and Blue Jays.

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell is part of a three-generation baseball family. His father, Thomas Farrell, pitched briefly in the minors for the Cleveland Indians in the mid-‘50s. John, himself, pitched in eight seasons in the majors before pursuing a career in coaching and managing. John’s three sons carried on the baseball heritage for the Farrell family. Luke pitched at the Triple-A level in 2016 for the Kansas City Royals organization, while Jeremy currently serves as a minor league coach in the Chicago Cubs organization. A third son, Shane, was a late-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, but never played professionally. Instead, he has continued his baseball career as a scout in the Cubs organization.

Multi-generation baseball families are filled with examples that extend beyond the playing field.

The MacPhail family could easily make a claim for being the “first family” of baseball, but not because of their play on the diamond. Instead, they have supplied baseball with executives for four generations. Andy MacPhail, current president of the Philadelphia Phillies, is a third-generation family member. He now has two sons, Drew and Reed, who are working their way through professional baseball in staff positions. Andy’s father was Lee MacPhail Jr., the former president of the American League and executive in the Yankees and Orioles organizations. Andy’s grandfather was Larry MacPhail, who was a part-owner and executive of the New York Yankees and a general manager with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds organizations. Andy’s brothers, Bill and Lee III also held front-office positions in pro baseball. His nephew, Lee IV, currently works in the front office for the Seattle Mariners. Larry and Lee Jr. are the only father-son combinations in Baseball’s Hall of Fame who did not play the game.

Jack Dunn IV also comes from a long line of players, owners, and executives who had involvement with the Baltimore Orioles for over one hundred years. He is currently a limited partner in the ownership group of the Orioles. His great grandfather, Jack Dunn Sr., played in the major leagues from 1897 to 1904 and then wound up owning and managing the Baltimore Orioles when it was one of the premier minor league franchises in the early 1900s. His grandfather, Jack Dunn Jr., briefly played for the Orioles teams during 1914 to 1919. His father, Jack III, was the long-time traveling secretary for the Orioles after it had become a major league franchise.

Roger Bossard is a third-generation groundskeeper with the Chicago White Sox. His father and grandfather also held the same position with the Chicago White Sox. Roger’s son, Brandon, may break the chain of groundskeepers, however, by becoming a major league player. He was drafted by the White Sox in 2016. The Cucuzza family, including Lou Sr. and his two sons, have managed New York Yankee clubhouses and equipment rooms since the 1980s.

Chip Caray is a third-generation broadcaster, following his father Skip, with the Braves, and grandfather Harry who had a long career with the Cardinals, White Sox and Cubs. Chip’s half-brother, Josh, is currently a broadcaster for a Tampa Bay Rays minor league team.

Although no longer active, the Runge family (Ed, Paul, and Brian) provided three generations of major league umpires. In 2016, brothers Bill and Tim Welke were active umpires, while Brian Gorman and Hunter Wendelstadt are second-generation umpires. Umpire Jim Wolf is the brother of former major league player Randy Wolf, and John Hirschbeck’s brother, Mark, was a major league umpire until recently.

In the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft, Trey Griffey was drafted in the 24th round by the Seattle Mariners, although he had not played baseball since he was a youth. Trey is the son of Ken Griffey Jr., a Baseball Hall of Fame inductee in 2016, and is the grandson of Ken Griffey Sr., a veteran of nineteen seasons in the majors. Trey’s draft selection was actually a special tribute to Griffey Jr, who wore uniform number 24 while playing for the Mariners, since Trey currently plays college football at the University of Arizona.

After over 140 years of professional baseball, women still have not substantially penetrated the sport. However, one significant event involving women occurred in 2016, when Amanda Hopkins was hired as a professional scout by the Seattle Mariners organization. Her interests in baseball stemmed from her father Ron, who has been a scout and executive for several major league organizations and is currently a special assistant for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Amanda’s brother, Ross, was a 40th round selection of the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, but didn’t sign a professional contract.

Lauren Holland is a front-office executive with the Atlanta Braves. Her father, John, is the clubhouse manager for the Braves.

A few other women have helped break the gender barrier in baseball through their marriage to men who come from baseball families. One current example is Katie Haas, a front-office executive for the Boston Red Sox. Her husband, Danny Haas, is a special assistant for the Baltimore Orioles after having been a player and coach. Danny is one of several members of the Haas family which has been involved in baseball since the 1950s.

Professional baseball has more family relationships than any sport in the United States. This season demonstrated that this trend is definitely continuing.

Washington Nationals Look for Talent in Sons of Former Major Leaguers

The Washington Nationals organization frequently looks to the sons of former major leaguers to fill their talent pool.  Their scouting operations staff believe it’s no coincidence that they like to pursue the offspring of the big-leaguer, since they have been around baseball their whole lives.

Read more about Tony Gwynn Jr., Cutter Dykstra, Cody Dent, Ryan Ripken, and Mariano Rivera III, who were all in the Nationals system during the 2015 season.  Follow the link below from the Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/with-five-sons-of-major-leaguers-nationals-take-a-dip-into-the-gene-pool/2015/07/27/9087edd8-3492-11e5-adf6-7227f3b7b338_story.html