Contributed by Richard Cuicchi
This is the ninth 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 New York Mets were filled with examples of players and non-players that had relatives in baseball. Some of the more noteworthy ones include:
Lenny Dykstra began his major-league career with the Mets in 1985 and was a key member of their World Series championship team in 1986. He was a .278 hitter with 116 stolen bases in his five seasons with the Mets. He played the balance of his 12-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies ending in 1996. His son, Cutter, was an outfielder with Washington’s Double-A Harrisburg affiliate last year, while his son, Luke, was an infielder currently in the Atlanta Braves organization.
Dwight Gooden was National League Rookie of the Year for the Mets in 1984, while also finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting. In his eleven seasons with the Mets, he posted a 157-85 record, including 23 shutouts and 1,898 strikeouts. Gooden pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees in 1996 and finished his career in 2000. Gooden is the uncle of Gary Sheffield, who posted 509 HR, 1,676 RBI, and .292 BA in 22 major-league seasons.
Todd Hundley spent nine of his fourteen years in the major leagues with the New York Mets. The catcher posted all-star seasons with them in 1996 and 1997 and compiled 202 HR and 509 RBI during his entire career. Todd’s father, Randy, was also a major-league catcher for fourteen seasons, primarily with the Chicago Cubs.
Al Leiter had the most productive years of his career with the Mets during 1998 to 2004. He won 95 games and posted a 3.42 ERA. He started his major-league career with the New York Yankees in 1987 and pitched on two World Series winning teams, with Toronto in 1993 and Florida in 1997. Al’s brother, Mark, pitched in eleven major-league seasons, compiling a career record of 65-73. His brother, Kurt, pitched in four minor-league seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Al’s nephew, Mark Leiter Jr., is currently pitching in the Philadelphia Phillies’ farm system.
Frank “Tug” McGraw had the breakout of his career in 1969 as a reliever on the Mets’ first-ever division winning team, when he posted a 9-3 record, 12 saves and 2.24 ERA. The popular Mets’ rallying cry, “Ya Gotta Believe,” is attributed to McGraw. Altogether, he pitched nine seasons with the Mets and the remainder of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies. The two-time all-star played for the Phillies in their 1980 World Series defeat of the Kansas City Royals. Tug’s brother, Hank, played twelve minor-league seasons in which he hit 161 HR and 666 RBI, but never appeared in the big leagues. Tug’s son is Tim McGraw, the award-winning singer, songwriter, and actor.
Jesse Orosco pitched eight of his twenty-four major-league seasons with the Mets, where he compiled a 44-44 record, 2.73 ERA and 144 saves. He recorded the save in the 1986 World Series Game 7, in which the Mets’ defeated the Boston Red Sox. The lefty currently holds the major-league record for games played (1,252) by a pitcher. Jesse’s son, Jesse Jr., pitched in the minors and independent leagues from 2008 to 2011.
Joan Whitney Payson was the first owner of the New York Mets franchise and the first woman owner of a major-league baseball team without inheriting the team. She was married to Charles Payson, who later took over the team after Joan died. Joan’s daughter, Linda de Roulet, served as president of the Mets from 1976 to 1979.
Mookie Wilson played ten seasons with the Mets from 1980 to 1989. He is often remembered for hitting the ground ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series won by the Mets. During his 13-year career, he had a .274 batting average and 327 stolen bases. Mookie is the uncle and stepfather of Preston Wilson, who played ten major-league seasons. Preston’s best year was in 2003 when he led the National League in RBI with 141 and made the all-star team with Colorado. Mookie’s brother, Johnny, played six minor-league seasons with the Mets and Detroit Tigers organizations from 1982 to 1987.
Fast-forwarding to more recent times, below are some highlights of baseball relatives in the Mets organization during 2016.
Travis d’Arnaud completed his fourth season with the Mets last year, after having been the first-round draft selection of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007 and spending three seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system. The catcher has a career .245 batting average. His brother, Chase, was an infielder with the Atlanta Braves last season, his fifth major-league campaign.
Erik Goeddel was a relief pitcher for the Mets in 36 appearances last season. H was in his third major-league season, after being selected out of UCLA in the 24th round of the of the 2010 MLB. His brother, Tyler, made his major-league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016 as an outfielder.
Robert Gsellman made his major-league debut with the Mets last year, posting a 4-2 record and 2.42 ERA in eight starts. He had been the 13th-round selection of the Mets in the 2011 MLB Draft. His father, Bob, was a catcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization from 1984 to 1986.
Addison Reed appeared in 80 games as a relief pitcher for the Mets last year, compiling a 4-2 record and 1.97 ERA. He had previously pitched for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. His brother, Austin, pitched in the Chicago Cubs organization from 2010 to 2014.
Neil Walker was having an outstanding season (23 HR, 55 RBI, and .282 BA) in his first year with the Mets last year before missing the last month of the season due to injury. He had previously played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2009 to 2015, which included a Silver Slugger Award for second basemen in 2014. His father, Tom, was a major-league pitcher for four teams from 1972 to 1977, compiling an 18-23 record. Neil’s brother-in-law, Don Kelly, has been a major-league infielder/outfielder from 2007 to 2016, most recently with the Miami Marlins. Neil’s uncle, Chip Lang, pitched parts of two seasons for the Montreal Expos from 1975-1976.
Zach Wheeler has missed the last two seasons with the Mets due to arm problems, but posted 18 victories in the prior two seasons. He was a first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 2009 MLB Draft. His brother, Adam, pitched in the New York Yankees’ minor-league system from 2001 to 2004.
The Mets’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives played professionally, several of them with famous last names in baseball.
Gavin Cecchini was drafted out of high school by the Mets in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft and made his major-league debut with the Mets on September 11, 2016. His brother, Garin, a fourth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2010, played at the Triple-A level for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. Garin appeared in 13 games for the Red Sox during 2014 and 2015.
Ricky Knapp was an eighth-round pick of the Mets in 2013 and recorded a 13-6 record at all three levels of the minors in the Mets’ system last year. Ricky’s father, Rick, pitched in the minors from 1983 to 1987, primarily for the Texas Rangers’ farm system.
- J. Mazzilli was the fourth-round pick out of the University of Connecticut by the Mets in 2013. Last year he split the season between the Triple-A and Double-A levels, hitting a combined .239 with 5 HR and 43 RBI. He is the son of Lee Mazzilli, a former outfielder with the Mets for ten seasons and an all-star for them in 1979. Lee was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles in 2004-2005. L. J.‘s uncle, Don, played minor-league ball in the San Francisco Giants’ system in 1982-1983.
Tyler Pill completed his sixth minor-league season in the Mets organization last year. He has a career record of 38-29. His brother, Brett, played in three major-league seasons with the San Francisco Giants before spending the last three season playing in Korea.
Natanael Ramos signed as an 18-year-old out of Venezuela in 2011 and has played in the Met’s low minors since then. His brother, Wilson, was a catcher with the Washington Nationals last year, where he hit 22 home runs, 80 RBI and .307 average; was selected to the National League all-star team; and collected the Silver Slugger Award for catchers. Wilson’s brother, David, is a relief pitcher in the Nationals farm system.
Paul Sewald pitched for the Mets’ Triple-A club last year, his fifth with the organization. He was selected by the Mets in the 10th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. His brother, Johnny, has been an outfielder in the Houston Astros organization since 2015.
The 2016 Mets had their share of baseball relatives in the dugout and front office, too.
Sandy Alderson is the general manager of the Mets. He was previously an executive with the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres, as well as executive vice president for baseball operations with the MLB Commissioner’s Office. His son, Bryn, is currently a scout in the Mets organization.
Ricky Bones is the bullpen coach for Mets. He had an eleven-year major-league pitching career as a starter and a reliever for seven different clubs. He posted one all-star season in 1994. He is the cousin of Ricky Ledee, who was an outfielder for ten major-league seasons during 1998 to 2007.
Ron Darling is a broadcaster for the Mets, in addition to being a studio host for MLB Network. He won 99 games for the Mets during 1983-1991 and was a member of the 1986 World Series champion Mets. His brother, Edwin, was a first baseman in the New York Yankees farm system 1981-1982.
Rusty Staub is a club ambassador for the Mets, after having been a player and part of their broadcast team during his baseball career. He began his major-league career at age 19 and played a total of 23 seasons in the big leagues, including stints with the Mets from 1972-1975 and 1981-1985. He recorded 2,716 career hits and is the only player in baseball history to ever record more than 500 hits for four different clubs. He was a six-time all-star selection. His father, Ray Sr., played minor-league baseball in 1937-1938, while his brother, Ray Jr., was an outfielder in the Houston Astros organization in 1962-1963.
Tim Teufel was the third base coach for the Mets last year. His 11-year major-league playing career included a stint with the Mets from 1986 to 1991. He will be a minor league instructor and club ambassador for the Mets in 2017. His son, Shawn, pitched four minor-league seasons with the Detroit Tigers and New York Mets from 2010 to 2013.
Fred Wilpon is chairman of the board and CEO of the Mets and has had an ownership stake in the club since 1980. His family currently holds the majority ownership of the club. Fred’s brother, Richard, is also partner/director of the club, while his son, Jeff, is the COO, in addition to a partner/director role. Fred is the grandfather of Bradley Wilpon, who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 36th round of the 2014 MLB Draft.
Baseball’s Relatives Website
The entire list of 2016 active major and minor league players and non-players can be retrieved at:
Brothers Gavin and Garin Cecchini had a “family highlight” day on April 14, when they hit home runs for their respective minor league teams. It was the second time this has occurred in their careers, the last time on August 12, 2014.
Garin plays third base for Triple-A Pawtucket of the Boston Red Sox organization, while the younger Gavin is a shortstop for Double-A Binghampton of the New York Mets farm system. Both are top prospects within their respective organizations.
Read more about the Cecchini brothers at the link below from milb.com:
Gavin Cecchini is playing at Savannah in the New York Mets organization this season. A first-round draft pick in 2012, Gavin followed his brother Garin into professional baseball. Garin is a top prospect in the Red Sox organization. They were both coached in high school by their father, Glenn, at Barbe High School in Lake Charles, LA. Glenn is a well-known coach in that area, having won several Louisiana state championships and put several players into professional baseball.
See related story about Gavin Cecchini in at the link below from savannahnow.com:
Garin Cecchini, a hot third base prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization, got his baseball schooling from both this father and mother. Growing up in Lake Charles, LA, Garin played for high school powerhouse Barbe High School, where his father Glenn was head coach and his mother Raissa was an assistant. Even as a smaller child, both of his parents were influential in teaching him the game of baseball. Garin has a brother, Gavin, who was a first-round pick of the New York Mets in 2012. You can bet Mom and Pop Cecchini are looking forward to the day when both sons are in the big leagues!
See related story at the link below from espn.com:
Gavin Cecchini was the New York Mets first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. He is currently playing for Class A Brooklyn Cyclones in his first full professional season. His brother, Garin, is a top Double-A prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization, having been a fourth-round pick in 2010. Gavin says he is learning from his brother’s mistakes to improve his own game.
They played high school baseball at Barbe High in Lake Charles, LA, coached by their father and mother (as an assistant coach).
See attached article in Newsday about the Cecchini brothers: