MLB draft keeps family ties pipeline filled

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

Trei Cruz aims to be a third-generation MLer

Trei Cruz is currently playing baseball for Rice University, where his father also played. Jose Cruz Jr. was a first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners out of Rice in the 1995 MLB Draft. Trei’s father went on to play 12 major-league season for nine different clubs.

Trei’s grandfather, Jose Cruz Sr., was a major-leaguer for 19 seasons, primarily with the Houston Astros. Trei’s great-uncles, Tommy and Hector, also briefly play in the majors, too.

If Trei manages to get to the big leagues someday, his family will become only the fifth three-generation family to play.

For more information about Trei Cruz, follow the link below from The Rice Thresher:

http://www.ricethresher.org/article/2019/02/baseball-preview-trei-cruz-carries-on-family-legacy

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.

 

Like His Name, Trei Cruz Aims to Make it Three

Trei Cruz was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 35th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, but he knows it was out of courtesy for his grandfather and father who both played in the big-leagues with the Astros.  Before the draft, Trei had let it be known he had plans to play baseball at Rice University in 2018.

Trei’s grandfather, Jose Cruz Sr., was one of three brothers to make it to the big-leagues.  After starting his career in St. Louis, Jose Sr. made his mark with the Houston Astros, with whom he played 13 seasons.  Altogether, he logged 19 big-league seasons in which he compiled a .284 batting average, 2,221 hits, 165 home runs and 1,077 RBI.  He is one of the more popular players in Astros history.

Trei’s father, Jose Cruz Jr., played at Rice University before being drafted in the first round of the 1995 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners.  He was runner-up for American League Rookie of the Year in 1997.  Jose Jr. wound up playing 12 major-league seasons, primarily with the Toronto Blue Jays.  His last season was with the Astros in 2008.

Trei has hopes of his family will ultimately join the elite group of families who have had three-generations of major-leaguers, including the Bells, Boones, Colemans, and Hairstons.

For more information about Trei Cruz’s baseball family, follow the link below from the Houston Chronicle:

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/astros/article/Trei-Cruz-following-in-family-s-baseball-footsteps-11285035.php

 

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 .