The Search for Baseball’s Relatives Continues

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

Some of you already know one of my special interests in baseball research is identifying all the professional baseball players, managers, coaches, scouts, executives, broadcasters, owners, front office personnel, umpires, and clubhouse staff who have a relative that was also in some capacity in pro baseball. I just completed my annual compilation and have posted the results on my Baseball Relatives website https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/family-ties-2017-season/.

The process involved in the compilation activity requires arduous and time-consuming research. But I believe it results in one of the most comprehensive databases of baseball relatives information that I’m aware of.  My sources of information are primarily based on the major league team media guides, Major League Baseball websites, selected baseball magazines, and searches of the internet for current articles in newspapers and posts on blogs and websites.

My entire database now has over 7,400 individuals (all years) representing over 12,000 relationships. That’s more than double the number I had initially identified in my Family Ties book through the 2011 season.  The increase stems from the six additional seasons since the book was published, as well as the inclusion of additional minor league players and major league non-players I have discovered since then.

Some of the more noteworthy relatives from the 2017 season include the following:

  • Jake Boone was drafted out of high school in the 38th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. If he were to eventually make it to the majors, he would become part of the first four-generation family of major leaguers. His family tree includes great-grandfather Ray Boone, grandfather Bob Boone, and father Bret Boone. His uncle, Aaron Boone, was also a major-leaguer.
  • Trei Cruz was drafted out of high school in the 35th round of the draft by the Houston Astros, the team his grandfather (Jose) and father (Jose Jr.) previously played for. Two of his grandfather’s brothers, Hector and Tommy, also played in the majors.
  • Several Hall of Famers have relatives coming up through the ranks. Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson, Mike Yastrzemski, is playing at the Triple-A level in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Harmon Killebrew’s grandsons, Chad and Grant Hockin, are both pitchers in the low minors. Cal Ripken Jr.’s son, Ryan, is a first baseman now playing in the Orioles organization where his father starred. Tom Glavine’s son, Peyton, was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels, but will attend college instead of signing a pro contract.
  • During the recent World Series between the Astros and Dodgers, two sons of former major leaguers were on center stage. Dodgers first baseman, Cody Bellinger, is the son of Clay Bellinger, who played on two World Series teams with the New York Yankees. Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. is the son of Lance McCullers Sr., who pitched for seven seasons in the majors.
  • This season’s Toronto Blue Jays minor league team Dunedin in the Class A Florida State League featured the sons of three former major-league stars. Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s father was a 16-year major leaguer, American League MVP in 2004. Shortstop Bo Bichette’s father, Dante Bichette, was a four-time all-star with the Colorado Rockies. Second baseman Cavan Biggio is the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. Additionally, Dunedin outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s father was a star player and manager in Cuban professional leagues, while his brother currently plays for the Houston Astros.
  • Kacy Clemens, the son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, made his professional debut in the Toronto Blue Jays organization this year. He is Clemens’ third son to be drafted by a major-league team. Koby played in the minors and independent leagues for ten seasons. Kody was drafted by the Astros out of high school in 2015 and currently plays at the University of Texas. Note the first names of Clemens’ sons all begin with “K”, the significance being his second-place ranking on the list of all-time strikeout leaders.
  • Luke Farrell, the son of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, made his major-league debut as a pitcher with the Kansas City Royals. John later took a day off from the Red Sox during the season in order to watch his son pitch in a big-league game.
  • Satchel McElroy, an outfielder in the Cincinnati Reds organization, is the son of former major-league pitcher Chuck McElroy. He is named after Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, who was a Negro League teammate of his grandfather Sylvester Cooper. Satchel’s brother C. J. is an outfielder in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The brothers are the nephews of Cecil Cooper, former major-league player and manager.
  • Patrick Valaika is in his second big-league season with the Colorado Rockies. He has three brothers (Matt, Chris, and Nick) who also played professionally, with Chris having also played in the majors from 2010 to 2014.
  • Stephen Drew, who played for the Washington Nationals in 2017, and brothers J.D. and Tim were all former first-round draft picks in the MLB Draft—Stephen (2004), J.D. (1997 and 1998), and Tim (1997).
  • Zach Garrett was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2017 and made his pro debut with Aberdeen in the Orioles minor league system. His baseball lineage includes grandfather Jasper Spears, who was an infielder in the Dodgers organization from 1949 to 1959. However, Zach’s more notable family members include NASCAR race drivers who happen to be grandfather Dale Jarrett and father Ned Jarrett.
  • 94-year-old Red Schoendienst still works for the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a special assistant. His major-league career has included time as a player, coach, manager and front office consultant with the Cardinals, starting in 1945. Schoendienst has five brothers who played professionally in the 1940s. His son, Kevin, was also a minor-leaguer for two seasons in the Cubs organization.

I’m always on the hunt for new entries in my Family Ties database. Of course, the newer, up-and-coming players aren’t as hard to find because so much information is now available on the internet.  Finding the older players is more challenging, but every once in a while I’ll discover a new instance, for example, when doing research in old newspapers and magazines for my SABR book projects.  For me, it’s sort of like finding that rare silver dime in a huge pile of coins.

 

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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/.