Family Ties Flourishing in Baseball – Chicago Cubs

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

This is the fourth 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.

Cubs history is filled with examples of players and non-players that had relatives in baseball. Some of the more noteworthy ones include:

Lou Brock got his major league start with the Chicago Cubs before going on to a Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals.  He is often the subject of the worst trade in Cubs history, when they acquired pitcher Ernie Broglio from the Cardinals.  Broglio would only win seven games for the Cubs in 2 ½ years.  Brock’s son, Lou Jr., was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 17th round in 1982, but did not sign.  Brock’s cousin, Dale, played in the Cardinals organization in 1976-77.

Dolph Camilli made his major-league debut with the Cubs in 1933, but the more significant portion of his career was spent with the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he was the National League MVP in 1941 and earned two-time all-star selections.  Dolph had four sons that played pro baseball, although Doug was the only one to make it to the majors, as a backup catcher for several teams during the 1960s.  Doug’s son, Kevin, played in the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers organizations from 1984 to 1988.

Jim Delahanty was one of five brothers to play in the majors, the most in baseball history.  He played for the Chicago Cubs in 1901 and went on to have a 13-year major-league career.  The best of the brothers was Ed, a Hall of Fame player primarily with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Frank, Joe, and Tom were the other brothers.  The Delahanty brothers never played together in the major leagues, but Joe, Jim and Tom were teammates in the minors for Allentown and once accounted for eleven hits and twenty total bases among them.  A sixth brother, Will, was a minor league player.

Don Kessinger was a six-time all-star shortstop in his twelve seasons with the Cubs from 1964 to 1975, playing with Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams.  Don’s son, Keith, played eleven major-league games with Cincinnati in 1993, while son Kevin, played one minor-league season with the Cubs in 1992.  Don’s grandson, Grae, is currently a freshman infielder at his college alma mater, Ole Miss.

Lennie Merullo was on the 1945 Chicago Cubs team that played in the World Series, the last before the Cubs’ appearance in 2017.  However, he is best known for having made three errors in a 1942 game, on the day his son, Lennie Jr., was born, earning him the nickname “Boots.”  Lennie Jr. played minor-league baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization from 1962 to 1964.  Lennie Jr.’s son, Matt, was a backup catcher in big leagues from 1989 to 1995 and later managed in the minors.  Matt’s son, Nicholas, played one minor league season in the Baltimore Orioles farm system.

Fast forwarding to more recent times, here are some highlights of baseball relatives in the Chicago Cubs organization during 2016.

Kris Bryant has emerged as one the game’s top players in only two major league seasons.  He followed his National League Rookie of the Year Award season in 2015 with an MVP Award season last year and led the Cubs to their first World Series championship since 1908.  Last season, he led the league in runs scored and posted a slash line of .292/.385/.522.  Kris’ father, Mike, was an outfielder in the Red Sox organization in 1981-82.

Willson Contreras made his major league debut with the Cubs last season, sharing catching duties with veterans Miguel Montero and David Ross.  He responded with a .282 average, 12 HR and 35 RBI in 76 games.  He had ten hits, one HR and 5 RBI in the Cubs’ post-season games last year.  His brother, William, is an 18-year-old catcher in the Atlanta Braves organization.

Jason Heyward came to the Cubs for the 2016 season with an All-Star selection and three Gold Glove Awards to his credit.  His offensive production with the Cubs declined from his previous years.  However, he claimed his first World Series ring when the Cubs won their first championship since 19xx.  Jason’s brother, Jacob, was drafted in the 18th round of the 2016 draft by the San Francisco Giants and turned in a .330 batting average for the season.

Ryan Kalish was promoted to the Cubs for a week in May last year and then suffered a knee injury that put him out for the rest of the season.  Prior to 2016, he had two brief stints with the Boston Red Sox and then played in 57 games for the Cubs in 2014.  The Cubs granted Kalish free agency after last season.  Ryan’s brother, Jake, is currently a pitcher in the Kansas City Royals farm system.

Ben Zobrist has gained a reputation as one of the game’s best “super utility” players.  In his first season with the Cubs in 2017, he played both second base and outfield positions.  The veteran was key player in the Cubs’ victory in the World Series.  He was named the MVP of the Series for his ten hits, five runs and 2 RBI.  Ben’s brother-in-law is Jon Gilmore, who played in the minors for the Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox organizations.

The Cubs’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives were former major-league players:

John Andreoli was an outfielder for Triple-A Iowa in the Cubs farm system last year.  He is the cousin of Daniel Bard, a former major league pitcher for the Boston Red Sox during 2009 – 2013.  After sitting out the 2015 season due to injury, Bard attempted a return with the St. Louis Cardinals last year.  John’s cousin, Luke Bard, pitched in the Minnesota Twins organization last year.

Chad Hockin was the 6th-round draft selection of the Cubs last year and then pitched at the Class A level of the Cubs farm system.  His brother, Grant, was a 2nd-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2014, but pitched in only one pro season.  Their grandfather was Harmon Killebrew, a Hall of Fame infielder and designated hitter from 1954 to 1975.  Killebrew hit 573 career home runs and claimed the American League MVP Award in 1969 while playing for the Minnesota Twins.

Daniel Lockhart completed his sixth season in the Cubs organization last year, after being drafted out of high school in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Draft.  His father, Keith Lockhart, is currently a scout in the Cubs organization and played ten seasons for three major-league teams.  Keith appeared in six post-seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

Carson Sands was the 4th-round selection of the Cubs in the 2014 MLB Draft and completed his third pro season last year in 2016.  Carson’s brother, Cole, was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2015, but did not sign.

The 2016 Cubs had their share of baseball relatives off the field, too.

Tom Ricketts is the owner and chairman of the Chicago Cubs, having acquired the franchise in 2009.  Ricketts’ siblings, Laura, Pete, and Todd, also have ownership interests in the Cubs.  The Ricketts are not the first family to own the Cubs.  Three generations of the Wrigley family owned the franchise from 1925 to 1981.

Terry Kennedy is a scout in the Cubs’ player development organization.  He had been a four-time all-star catcher during his fourteen major league seasons, and he later managed, coached and instructed in the minor leagues for several teams.  His father, Bob Sr., spent over fifty years in baseball in various capacities, including as a player from 1939 to 1957 with seven different major league clubs and as a scout, manager, coach, and executive from 1958 to 1992.  One of Bob Sr.’s managerial stints was with the Cubs from 1963 to 1965.  Terry’s brother, Bob Jr., pitched in the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals farm systems from 1971 to 1975.

Dave Martinez became a coach for the Cubs when manager Joe Maddon was hired by the team in 2015.  They had previously worked together with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Dave also had a 16-year career as a major league player, compiling a .276 batting average.  Dave’s son, Dalton, was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 31st round of the 2013 MLB Draft, but did not sign.

Dan Kiermaier is in his second season as a Cubs groundskeeper at Wrigley Field.  Dan’s brother, Kevin, was in his fourth season as an outfielder in the Tampa Bay Rays organization in 2016.

Jason McLeod is currently the senior vice president of scouting and player development for the Cubs.  He has previously held scouting and executive positions for the Boston Red Sox and the San Diego Padres.  He is the great-grandnephew of Carl Hubbell, the Hall of Fame pitcher for the New York Giants from 1928 to 1943.  He is a distant relative of Jacob Hannemann, currently a minor-league outfielder in the Cubs farm system.

 

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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Third-Generation Kessinger to Play for Ole Miss

Grae Kessinger was a top high school baseball prospect in 2016 and became the 26th round pick of the San Diego Padres in the 2016 MLB Draft.  He has committed to play college baseball at the University of Mississippi, where his father, uncle and grandfather also played.

Grae’s grandfather is Don Kessinger, who signed out of Ole Miss with the Chicago Cubs in 1964.  He made his major-league debut that year and became the starting shortstop the next season.  He was a six-time All-Star with the Cubs for whom he played until 1975.  He briefly played for the St. Louis Cardinals and then finished his career as the player/manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1979.

Grae’s father, Kevin, was a 22nd pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1992 after playing at Ole Miss.  He made a brief minor-league appearance that year.

Grae’s uncle, Keith, was a draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1989 and played eleven games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1994.  He finished his career in 1996 with the Cubs organization.

During the summer, Grae got the opportunity to play in the showcase Under Armor Game at Wrigley Field, where his grandfather once roamed.

Read more about the Kessinger family at the link below from Ole Miss Sports:

http://www.olemisssports.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/100616aab.html?utm_source=social%20media&utm_medium=story&utm_campaign=BSB_100616_S

Family Ties Prominent Again in this Year’s MLB Draft

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/.

Another Kessinger Destined For Shortstop

His last name is certainly familiar to major league baseball circles, and he will also be following a family tradition at Ole Miss, where his father, grandfather and uncle also played college baseball.

Grae Kessinger verbally committed to Ole Miss after his sophomore season in high school. His grandfather Don was an All-American shortstop at Ole Miss and went on to a 16-year career in the big leagues, including six All-Star selections. His father Kevin also played for Ole Miss, followed by a brief minor league career in the Cubs organization. His uncle Keith was also a shortstop who played alongside Kevin at Ole Miss and wound up reaching the big leagues for the Reds in 1993.

See the related profile of Grae Kessinger at the link below from nwaonline.com:
http://www.nwaonline.com/news/2014/jun/21/baseball-kessinger-carries-on-family-s-/?sports