Contributed by Richard Cuicchi
In some families, there is a legacy of sons following in their father’s footsteps as lawyers, doctors, farmers, and military servicemen, often spanning several generations. Professional baseball is also one of those occupations where sons dream of playing their father’s game, ultimately hoping to reach the big leagues.
Major League Baseball’s annual amateur draft took place last week and realized plenty of opportunities to replenish the pipeline of new players who have family ties in the sport. Over 60 players were drafted that have a relative who currently or previously played professional baseball. Five of these had brothers who currently play in the big leagues. 28 are sons of former major leaguers. Nephews, cousins, grandsons, and great-grandsons of former major leaguers, as well as relatives of minor league players, account for the balance. All of these players contribute to an ever-growing pipeline of young men with family ties in baseball.
The 2019 MLB Draft was no different from past years in terms of interesting backgrounds of the drafted players.
Bobby Witt Jr. was the second overall pick of the draft by the Kansas City Royals. His father Bobby Witt Sr. was a third-round pick in 1985, thus making them the highest ranked father-son duo in draft history. An indication of how much things have changed in 34 years, the younger Witt stands to sign for over $7 million as a bonus, whereas his father received $179,000. Other first-rounders with family ties this year were Logan Davidson (A’s), Alek Manoah (Blue Jays), Hunter Bishop (Giants) and Sammy Siani (Pirates).
Multiple generations of baseball families are becoming more common. This year, Grae Kessinger (grandson of Don Kessinger), Trei Cruz (grandson of Jose Cruz Sr.), and Luke Bell (grandson of Buddy Bell) were drafted. In fact, if Luke Bell was to ultimately make the majors, he would become the fourth generation in his family to play, which has never occurred before. His father is former major-leaguer Mike Bell, while his great-grandfather was Gus Bell, a major leaguer in the 1950s. Other grandsons of major leaguers include Jonathan Allen (grandson of Don Landrum) and Ryan Berardino (grandson of Dwight Evans). Berardino’s other grandfather, Dick Berardino, was a long-time minor-league coach and instructor in the Red Sox organization.
Eleven drafted players had more than one relative. In addition to Kessinger, Cruz, and Bell, Nick Paciorek had three uncles (Tom, John, and Jim) who played in the big leagues. Jack Leiter’s father (Al), uncle (Mark), and cousin (Mark Jr.) have played in the majors.
Brothers Jake (Yankees, 24th round) and Micah Pries (Indians, 13th round) were both selected in this year’s draft. Their father Jeff was a minor-league player in the 1980s.
Braden Halladay, son of recently-elected Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, one of his father’s former teams. However, the younger Halladay has already stated his intention to play for Penn State next year.
Yorvis Torrealba was selected by the Colorado Rockies. His father, Yorvit, fairly recently retired from the game in 2014 at age 35. Had the father been able to remain active a few more years, it would have potentially set up a situation where the father-son duo could have played in the majors at the same time. There have been only two previous occasions of father-son combos accomplishing this feat: Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and his father; and Hall of Famer Tim Raines and his son.
Several of the drafted players have relatives in the managerial and front office ranks of major-league teams. Dylan Hoffman (son of Glenn Hoffman), Cole Roberts (son of Dave Roberts), and Nic Ready (son of Randy Ready) are the sons of major-league managers. Cade Hunter, Davis Moore, Nate Bombach, and Chase Solesky are the sons of major-league scouts. Jonah DiPoto is the son of Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto.
There were an additional 16 players selected that had relatives in sports other than professional baseball. Blake Sabol (Pirates, 7th round) is the cousin of current NFL player Troy Polamalu, while Todd Lott (Nationals, 9th round) is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. Jake Mangum’s (Mets, 4th round) father (John), grandfather (John Sr.), and uncle (Kris) were former NFL players.
Three drafted players had family ties with participants in the Olympic Games. The mother of Oraj Anu (Red Sox, 16th round) was a sprinter representing the Bahamas in the 1984 Olympics. Mason Janvrin’s (Orioles, 14th round) father was a decathlete in the 2000 Olympics for the United States. Alex MacFarlane’s (Cardinals 25th round) mother participated in the 1988 Olympics in taekwondo for the US Virgin Islands.
The grandfather of Adley Rutschmann, the Number 1 overall pick of the draft by the Orioles, won NAIA national championships in both college football and baseball for tiny Linfield College in Oregon.
The entire list of 2019 draftees can be viewed at https://baseballrelatives.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/2019-mlb-drafted-players-v1-formatted.pdf