Family Ties Prominent Again in this Year’s MLB Draft

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

In the MLB Draft in June each year, there are typically a number of drafted amateur players who have a relative in professional baseball. 38 players fit this criteria in 2017.  They represent the latest crop of relatives that are expected to infuse baseball rosters with players who have baseball in their blood lines.

The first occurrences of baseball brothers date back to the sport’s professional beginnings in the 1870s. The first son of a former major-leaguer made his big-league debut in 1903.

Each year there are typically a number of drafted players with intriguing backgrounds that involve family relationships. This year is no exception.  Here’s a review of some of the highlights of this year’s players with family ties in baseball.

Professional baseball is experiencing more and more players with multiple generations in their bloodlines. In the long history of Major League Baseball, there have been only four occurrences of three-generation families.  Several grandsons of major-league ballplayers top the list of players drafted this year and thus offer new opportunities to expand the “three generation” club and possibly initiate a “four generation” list.

Jake Boone, the son of former major-leaguer Bret Boone, was drafted in the 38th round by the Washington Nationals.  If Jake were to eventually reach the major-leagues, he would represent the fourth generation of Boones to play in the big-leagues, the first time that will have ever occurred.  Bret was a three-time All-Star during his 14-year MLB career.  Jake’s grandfather, Bob, was a four-time All-Star during his 19 years, while Jake’s great-grandfather, Ray, made the All-Star team twice during his 13-year career.  Jake’s uncle, Aaron was an infielder in the majors from 1997 to 2009.

Trei Cruz was selected in the 35th round by the Houston Astros, his grandfather Jose Cruz’s old team.  Trei is a third-generation player, since his father, Jose Cruz Jr., was also a major-leaguer.  Trei’s two great-uncles, Tommy and Hector, were former major-leaguers, as well.

Justin Morhardt is the grandson of Moe Morhardt, a major leaguer with the Chicago Cubs in 1960 and 1961.  Justin’s father, Greg, played in the minors and is currently a scout in the Atlanta Braves organization.  Justin was drafted by Braves in the 22nd round.

Riley O’Brien is the grandson of Johnny O’Brien.  Johnny and his brother Eddie made history in the 1950s by becoming only one of nine sets of twin brother to ever play in the majors. They formed the double-play combo for the 1953 Pittsburgh Pirates.  A pitcher from the College of Idaho, Riley was the 8th round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Buddy Kennedy is the grandson of Don Money, who played third base with the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers from 1968 to 1993.  Buddy, also a third baseman, was drafted out of high school in the 5th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Multiple-brother families in the game continue to flourish, as well. The record for most major-league brothers are the Delahantys, who numbered five (Ed, Jim, Tom, Frank, and Joe) in the late 1880s and early 1900s.  Three Alou brothers (Felipe, Matty and Jesus) made history by playing in the same game for the San Francisco Giants in 1963.  Here are a few newly drafted brothers from last week’s draft.

Nick Valaika is the fourth brother in his family to be drafted by a major-league team.  Brothers Chris and Pat have previously reached the major-league level, while Matt played one season in the minors.  Nick was drafted out of UCLA in the 24th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Kacy Clemens is the third brother in his family to be drafted.  Kacy, Koby and Kody are the sons of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens.  Kacy most recently played for the University of Texas and was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 8th round.  Brother Koby played in the minors for eight seasons, while Kody (drafted in 2015) is currently at the University of Texas.

Cole Bellinger is the second son of Clay Bellinger to be drafted.  Cole’s brother, Cody, is currently a hard-hitting rookie with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Cole was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 15th round.  Father Clay played on two World Series teams with the New York Yankees in 2000 and 2001.

Jordan Wren is the second son of Boston Red Sox executive Frank Wren to be drafted.  The outfielder was selected out of Georgia Southern University by the Red Sox in the 10th round.  Jordan’s brother, Kyle, is currently playing at the Triple-A level for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Other drafted players whose kin have very familiar names include the following.

Darren Baker, the son of Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker, was drafted out of high school by the Nationals in the 27th round.  Darren made the sports news headlines during the 2002 World Series when, as a batboy for his father’s San Francisco Giants team, he was swept up at home plate (as he was attempting to retrieve a bat) by Giants player J. T. Snow to avoid a collision at home plate with a Giants runner coming into score.

Peyton Glavine is the son of Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine, who played 22 years in the majors and won two Cy Young Awards.  Peyton was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Angels in the 37th round.  If he doesn’t sign, he will likely attend the University of Auburn next year where he had previously committed to play.

Joe Dunand, a shortstop from North Carolina State University, was drafted in the second round by the Miami Marlins.  He is the nephew of former major-leaguer Alex Rodriguez, who hit 696 career home runs and claimed three American League MVP Awards.

Every year there are usually a handful of noteworthy major-league draftees whose bloodlines don’t include a baseball background.

This year’s list includes outfielder Zach Jarrett.  If that last name sounds familiar, yes, he is from the NASCAR racing family of Jarretts.  Zach, the son of Ned and grandson of Dale, was the 28th round pick of the Baltimore Orioles.  However, Zach has some baseball in his bloodlines, too, since his other grandfather, Jasper Spears, played in the Dodgers organization from 1949 to 1959.

LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson is the son of Kim Mulkey, the highly successful women’s basketball coach at Baylor University.  Robertson was selected in the 4th round by the St. Louis Cardinals

Several current NFL players had relatives drafted by major-league teams this year. Jake Cousins, 20th round pick of the Washington Nationals, is the cousin of Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. Colby Bortles, the 22nd round pick of the Detroit Tigers, is the brother of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. Demetrius Sims, the 14th round pick of the Miami Marlins, is the brother of Chicago Bears tight end Dion Sims.

Riley Crean is the son of former Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean.  Riley is also the nephew of Jim Harbaugh, the head football coach at the University of Michigan, and John Harbaugh, the head coach for the NFL Baltimore Ravens.  Riley was drafted out of high school by the Chicago White Sox in the 35th round.

A full list of the players from the 2017 MLB Draft with relatives in professional baseball can be viewed at the Baseball’s Relatives website .

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Eddie O’Brien, Former MLB Twin Brother, Dies

Eddie O’Brien, a former Major Leaguer and twin brother of Johnny O’Brien, recently died in Seattle. Johnny had also been a Major Leaguer. They played together for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1953 to 1958.

After his playing career, Eddie coached baseball at Seattle University for 14 years, with a record of 276-135. He coached the Major League Seattle Pilots for their one season.

My book about baseball’s family relationships, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, has a chapter about baseball’s twin brothers, including the O’Briens.

See related story about Eddie O’Brien at the link below from the Yakima Herald:
http://www.yakimaherald.com/sports/college/latestcollege/1951281-8/seattle-u-legend-eddie-obrien-dies-at-83