Family Ties Flourishing in Baseball: New York Yankees

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 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.

Indeed, families with a heritage of baseball are like those with military, medical, jurisprudence, and agricultural backgrounds.  Their professions are often passed down from one generation to the next.  Likewise, professional baseball fathers generally want their sons to follow in their footsteps.  Brothers grow up pushing each other to excel on the diamond.  Once one brother gets drafted by a major league team, then it’s often the case his brother will try to follow.

A look back in history shows many fascinating stories about baseball families.  For example:

  • the Hairston family, which included a major league father (Sam), three sons (two in the majors—John and Jerry Sr.), and five grandsons (two in the majors—Jerry Jr. and Scott), collectively had professional careers that spanned from 1945 to 2014.
  • three Alou brothers (Felipe, Matty, and Jesus) played for the San Francisco Giants in the same game in 1963.  The trio had two cousins who followed them in the big leagues, and one of the trio, Felipe, also had four sons to play professionally.
  • the Boyer brood included seven brothers that played professionally, including three major leaguers (Cloyd, Ken, and Clete).  They then produced three sons who played in the minors.

Numerous players of the 1960s New York Yankees teams had offspring who wound up playing professional baseball.  Follow the link below to an article entitled “Sons of the 1960s Bronx Bombers Had Big Shoes to Fill.”

https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/sons-of-the-1960s-bronx-bombers-had-big-shoes-to-fill/

Fast-forwarding to more recent times, here are some highlights of baseball relatives in the New York Yankees organization during 2019.

Gary Sanchez was an all-star selection in 2019.  He had the most home runs in his career (34) despite spending several stints on the injured list.  He had been the runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016 when he hit 20 home runs in only 53 games.  Gary’s brother Miguel had played in the Seattle Mariners organization for six seasons (2009-2014) as a catcher and pitcher.

Austin Romine had one of his best years with the Yankees with a slash line of .281/.310/.439, with 8 home runs and 35 RBIs.  He filled in very capably when regular catcher Gary Sanchez was on the injured list.  Romine is in one of those rare families that had a father and a brother in major-league baseball.  His father Kevin was a major-league outfielder in the Red Sox organization from 1985 to 1991, when he was also a backup player to regulars like Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, and Mike Greenwell.  His brother Andrew is a nine-year major-league veteran who played at the Triple-A level with the Philadelphia Phillies last season.

Aaron Hicks was in his fourth season with the Yankees but was one of several regulars who spent most of the season on the injured list.  In 59 games he hit 12 home runs and 36 RBIs.  He had signed a seven-year contract extension worth $70 million before the season began.  Hicks is the son of Joseph Hicks, who reached the Double-A level with the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals organizations before retiring in 1981.

Luis Severino missed all the 2019 season except one game in September due to a rotator cuff injury.  His disappointing season came after he led the Yankees in wins (19) in 2018.  His younger brother Rafael is also a pitcher, signed as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic and assigned to the Yankees’ academy there.

Zach Britton was one of the stalwarts in the Yankees’ bullpen in his first full season with them last season. In 66 appearances, he posted a 1.91 ERA.  He didn’t yield any runs in five relief appearances against Houston in the ALCS.  He is the brother of Buck Britton who played nine seasons in the minors before becoming a manager in the Baltimore Orioles farm system.

The Yankees’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several prospects whose relatives were former major-league all-stars:  Jose Mesa Jr. (son of Jose Mesa Sr.), and Michael O’Neill (nephew of Paul O’Neill), Ryan Lidge (brother of Brad Lidge), LJ Mazzilli (son of Lee Mazzilli),and Isiah Gilliam, (grandson of Jim Gilliam).

The Yankees had numerous personnel filling non-playing roles in the organization during 2019.  Some of them include:

Hal Steinbrenner is the managing general partner of the Yankees, having taken over for their legendary father, George Steinbrenner, following his death in 2010.  His siblings, Hank, Jennifer, and Jessica are general partners.

Aaron Boone was in his second year as manager of the Yankees.  His teams have won a hundred or more games in each season.  He played 12 seasons in the majors, including a stint with the Yankees.  Boone is part of a three-generation major-league family (one of only four in MLB history), including his grandfather Ray, father, Bob, and brother Bret.

Phil Nevin is in his second season as the Yankees’ third base coach.  He was the first overall pick of the 1992 MLB draft by the Houston Astros.  Nevin played 12 seasons in the majors, including an all-star season in 2001 with San Diego.  Nevin’s son Tyler was a first-round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2015 and played at the Double-A level in 2019.

Brothers Lou and Rob Cucuzza have been long-time clubhouse and equipment managers at Yankee Stadium.  They previously served with their father, Lou Sr., who also had an extensive career in similar capacities with the Yankees.

Mark Littlefield is a medical coordinator in the Yankees organization.  He is the brother of David Littlefield, currently an executive in the Detroit Tigers organization, and Scott Littlefield, currently a scout in the Texas Rangers organization.

Ken Singleton is currently a broadcaster for the Yankees.  He previously had a 15-year major-league playing career with the Montreal Expos and Baltimore Orioles.  His son, Justin, played for six seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, reaching the Triple-A level.

Donny Rowland, Yankees’ Director of International Scouting, is the father of Shane Rowland, who played two seasons in the Cleveland Indians organization.  The following Yankees scouts have relatives in baseball: Troy Afenir (father of Audie Afenir, 2019 independent league), Jeff Patterson (brother of Jim Patterson, former Yankees scout), Cory Melvin (son of Doug Melvin, former front office executive with several teams).

Nevin father-son duo were first-round picks

Tyler Nevin is in his fifth pro season in the Colorado Rockies organization, playing for Double-A Hartford this season.  He was a first-round pick (38th overall) of the Rockies in 2015 MLB Draft.

Tyler’s father, Phil, was the first overall pick of the 1992 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.  He went on play 12 seasons in the majors, including an all-star selection in 2001 with the San Diego Padres.  He has managed at the Triple-A level in both the Detroit and Arizona organizations and currently is a coach for the New York Yankees.

The Nevins are the ninth father-son pair to both be selected in the first round of the draft.

To read more about the Nevins, click here to retrieve an article from the Hartford Courant.

Base(Ball) in the Family – 2015 Player Relatives List

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

With the 2015 baseball season behind us, it’s time to provide my annual compilation of the players, managers and coaches from the season who had family relationships in professional baseball.  The count this year is 783; but while I scoured all the major league team media guides, many baseball websites, and countless new stories for updates, most assuredly there are still additional players I have yet to identify.

My interest in this aspect of baseball history began when collecting data for my book Family Ties:  A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, published in 2012 containing data through the 2011 season.

Since then, I have continued compiling a comprehensive set of family ties information.  The latest 2015 Family Ties list can be found on the Site Pages of this blog.

Below is a sample of interesting facts from the 2015 list.

Minor leaguer Jonathan Roof has nine relatives in baseball.  He is the son of former major leaguer Gene Roof, who had four brothers that played professionally.  Jonathan also has two brothers and two cousins that played.  One of the cousins, Eddie Haas, spent over 50 seasons in baseball as a player, coach and manager.

A’s pitcher Drew Pomeranz’s great grandfather, Garland Buckeye, was a major leaguer from 1918 to 1928.

This year’s list includes several sons of former All-Star players (noted in parenthesis):  Ryan Ripken (Cal Jr.), Jordan Hershiser (Orel), Mariano Rivera III (Mariano), Justus Sheffield (Gary), Cam Gibson (Kirk), Tony Gwynn Jr. (Tony), and Patrick Palmeiro (Rafael).

Rays pitcher Brad Boxberger was a major league first round draft choice in 2009, as was his father Rod Boxberger in 1978.  2015 draftee Tyler Nevin and his father Phil (1992 draftee) were both first-round picks.

Pitcher Casey Coleman is part of a three-generation family of major league pitchers.  His father Joe pitched between 1965 and 1979, while his grandfather, also named Joe, pitched from 1942 to 1955.  Both of them were named to All-Star teams.

Veteran Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth’s father (Jeff Gowan) and stepfather (Dennis Werth) were both professional players.  Jayson’s grandfather, Dick Schofield Sr., also played in the majors.

Eddie Gaedel gained fame in baseball as being the only midget to appear in the major leagues.  In a stunt produced by St. Louis Browns’ maverick owner Bill Veeck, the 3’ 7” Gaedel drew a walk in his only plate appearance in 1951.  Eddie’s nephew, Kyle Gaedele who is 6’ 3”, currently plays in the Padres organization.

Joe Jackson of the Texas Rangers organization is the great nephew of legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from Organized Baseball after the 1920 season for his involvement in the Black Sox Scandal.

Pitcher Randy Wolf’s brother, Jim, is a major league umpire.  There is an agreement between major league baseball teams and the umpire’s association that Jim will never call balls and strikes when brother Randy is on the mound.

Rangers’ designated hitter Prince Fielder and his father Cecil rank third all-time among father-son combo home run hitters, only behind Barry and Bobby Bonds and the Ken Griffeys.

The following current players have had better careers than their fathers (in parenthesis) who also played professionally:  Mike Trout (Jeff), Kris Bryant (Mike), Michael Brantley (Mickey), and Nick Swisher (Steve)

This version of the 2015 Family Ties List contains 711 major league and minor league players who have a relative in professional baseball.  There are also 72 major league managers and coaches.

These 783 players, managers and coaches have a total of 1,094 family relationships with players, managers, coaches, scouts, executives, and broadcasters from the major league teams and their affiliated minor league teams, independent leagues, and the Mexican League.  Obviously, several of the players, managers, and coaches have multiple family relationships.

Below are more details about the makeup of the players, managers, and coaches in the entire list.

PLAYERS

The 711 players in 2015 included 233 active major leaguers and 478 with only minor league experience.

233 players with major league experience had a total of 331 relatives in professional baseball

  • 25 had major league relatives active in 2015
  • 102 had major league relatives active before 2015

478 players with only minor league experience had a total of 619 relatives in professional baseball

  • 62 had major league relatives active in 2015
  • 221 had major league relatives active before 2015

MANAGERS/COACHES

The 72 major league managers and coaches had a total of 124 relatives in professional baseball

  • 8 had major league relatives in 2015.
  • 17 had major league relatives active before 2015.

The Milwaukee Brewers had two managers and five coaches that represented 22 family relationships in professional baseball.

2015 MLB DRAFT

74 amateur players drafted in 2015 had current or former relatives in professional baseball.

  • 55 were sons of pro players, while 25 were brothers
  • 46 of the draftees had relatives with major leaguers experience
  • 31 of the draftees did not sign pro contracts in 2015

2015 MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUTS

22 players with relatives in baseball made their major league debuts in 2014. 15 of their relatives had major league experience.

TEAMS

The average number of players (major and minor league), managers, and coaches with baseball relatives for the 30 major league organizations was 24.

  • The Royals and Red Sox were the organizations with the most relatives with 41 each. The Cubs (9) had the fewest.
  • The Orioles (13) had the most 2015 major leaguer roster players with a relative in professional baseball. The Angels, Dodgers and Red Sox each had 12 players.
  • The Rockies and Cubs both had the fewest with 3 players.

UNAFFILIATED BASEBALL

The 2015 independent baseball leagues had 47 players with relatives in professional baseball.

  • 11 of the players were former major leaguers with relatives.
  • 27 total relatives had major league experience.

The 2015 Mexican League had 16 players with relatives in professional baseball

  • 9 of the players were former major leaguers with relatives.
  • 9 total relatives had major league experience.

Brantley Bell and Tyler Nevin Understand Expectations Can be High

Brantley Bell and Tyler Nevin are both sons of former successful major leaguers.  They were selected in the 2015 MLB Draft and have started their pro careers, Nevin in the Rockies organization and Bell in the Reds system.

Both of the young players realize there are high expectations of them from having bloodlines that include former major leaguers.

Bell is the son of Jay Bell, an 18-year infielder in the big leagues, who made the All-Star team three years and played for the World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.

Nevin is the son of Phil Nevin, the first overall draft pick of the Houston Astros in 1992.  Phil went on to play for 12 seasons, compiling over 200 career home runs and putting up an All-Star season in 2001 with 46 home runs and 126 RBI for the San Diego Padres.

Read more about Brantley Bell and Tyler Nevin at the link below from the Billings Gazette:

http://billingsgazette.com/sports/baseball/professional/minor/pioneer-league/mustangs/big-shoes-mustangs-bell-rockies-nevin-try-to-surpass-fathers/article_45f653a8-2df3-55e2-8590-11264c99e5b0.html

Nevin Father-Son Combo Were Both First-Rounders in MLB Draft

Tyler Nevin was picked in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies.  He followed in his father’s (Phil) footsteps, who was a first-round (first overall ) pick in 1992 by the Houston Astros.

Phil was drafted out of Cal State Fullerton and went on to a 12-year career that included seven big league clubs.  He hit 208 home runs and batted .270 during his career.

Tyler was drafted out of high school and is currently playing in the Rockies organization in the rookie Pioneer League.

Read more about Tyler and Phil Nevin at the link below from the Reno Gazette-Journal:

http://journaltimes.com/sports/baseball/peter-jackel-kuiper-brothers-return-for-their-hero/article_28b674cb-3b2f-5c87-86ee-b7f610089767.html