Family Ties Flourishing in Baseball – Washington Nationals

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

This is the seventh in a series of reviews that will take a look at family relationships in each of the thirty major-league organizations.

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 of them 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, as well.

The heritage of the Nationals’ started with the Montreal Expos, its predecessor prior to the franchise’s move to Washington for the 2005 season. The Expos were filled with examples of players and non-players that had relatives in baseball.  Some of the more noteworthy ones include:

Andre Dawson is arguably the best player in the Expos’ history.  In his eleven seasons with them, he compiled 225 home runs, 838 RBI, and 253 stolen bases, while hitting .280.  He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1977.  In 1987 with the Chicago Cubs, he led the National League in home runs and RBI as the league’s MVP.  Dawson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.  He is currently a special assistant with the Miami Marlins.  He is the nephew of Theodore Taylor, who played one minor league season in 1950.

Delino DeShields Sr., a speedy infielder, got his major league start with the Expos in 1990 when he was runner-up as the league’s Rookie of the Year.  In his 13-year career, he stole 464 bases and collected over 1,500 hits.  His son, Delino Jr., was the first-round pick of the Houston Astros in 2010 and completed his second major-league season with the Texas Rangers last year as an outfielder.

Vladimir Guerrero played eight seasons with the Expos from 1996 to 2003.  He had a career batting average of .323 with the Expos, while hitting 234 home runs and 702 RBI.  Over the course of his 16-year career, the outfielder hit .318 to go along with 449 home runs and 1,496 RBI.  Guerrero was nearly elected the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2017, when he garnered 71.7% of the votes.  Guerrero’s brother, Wilton, played alongside his brother at Montreal from 1998 to 2000 and went on to have an eight-year career, compiling a .282 batting average.  Another brother, Julio, played in the Red Sox minor-league system from 1998 to 2001.  Vladimir’s son, also named Vladimir, made his professional debut as a 17-year-old with the Toronto Blue Jays organization last year.  His nephew, Gabriel, reached the Triple-A level in the Diamondbacks organization last year.

Joe Kerrigan pitched two of his four major-league seasons as a relief pitcher with the Expos.  He went on to have a long career as a pitching coach for five major-league seasons.  Kerrigan managed the Boston Red Sox for part of the 2001 season.  Joe’s son, Joe, was infielder in the Red Sox minor-leagues from 1999 to 2001, followed by two seasons in the independent leagues.  Joe’s brother, Thomas, played in the Philadelphia Phillies organization from 1963 to 1964.

Tim Raines had a Baseball Hall of Fame career that included thirteen seasons with the Expos.  He led the National League in stolen bases in four consecutive seasons while playing with the Expos.  Raines currently ranks 5th on the all-time stolen base leaders.  During his 23-year major-league career, the outfielder batted .294 and was named to seven all-star teams.  Tim’s son, Tim Jr., played parts of three major-league seasons with the Baltimore Orioles.  In 2001, the Raines father-son combo became the second in history to play on the same major-league team.  Tim’s brother, Ned, played in the minors from 1978 to 1980.

Tim Wallach was one of the longest-tenured Expos players, logging thirteen seasons from 1980 to 1992.  With the Expos, he hit 204 home runs and 905 RBI.  He was a five-time all-star and three-time Gold Glove winner as a third baseman.  Tim was the bench coach for the Miami Marlins in 2016.  Tim has three sons who pursued professional baseball careers: Chad is currently in the Cincinnati Reds organization; Brett last played in 2015 in the independent leagues; and Matt last played in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in 2013.

Fast-forwarding to more recent times, below are some highlights of baseball relatives in the Nationals organization during 2016.

Stephen Drew played as a backup infielder with the Nationals last season, his 11th in the majors.  The shortstop is one of three brothers to be drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft.  Stephen was the 2004 pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  His brother, J. D., was twice drafted in the first round, in 1997 by the Philadelphia Phillies and 1998 by the St. Louis Cardinals.  J. D. was a member of the 2007 World Series champion Boston Red Sox and wound up playing in fourteen major-league seasons as an outfielder.  Stephen’s brother, Tim, was the first-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 1997.  He pitched in parts of five seasons with three different teams.

Bryce Harper was one of the most highly-touted prospects ever to enter the major leagues.  As a 19-year-old, he made his major-league debut with the Nationals in 2012 and won National League Rookie of the Year honors.  He was voted the NL MVP in 2015 and already has four all-star selections under his belt.  His brother, Bryan, is a relief pitcher in the Nationals organization, splitting last season between Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg.

Daniel Murphy turned in the best season of his career in his first year with the Nationals in 2016.  He was runner-up in the National League MVP Award voting based on his 25 home runs, 104 RBI, and .347 batting average.  He had an historic post-season in 2015 with seven home runs in helping the New York Mets to the World Series.  Daniel’s brother, John, was an outfielder in the Twins organization from 2012 to 2014.

Wilson Ramos had career highs in his seventh season with the Nationals last year.  He hit 22 home runs, 80 RBI and .307 average.is seventh with the team.  He was selected to the all-star team and collected the Silver Slugger Award for National League catchers.  However, Wilson tore his ACL in September. He was granted free agency and signed with Tampa Bay Rays over the winter.  Wilson’s brother, David, is a relief pitcher in the Nationals farm system, while his brother, Natanael, is a catcher in the Mets organization.

Joe Ross finished with a 7-4 record in 19 starts with the Nationals last year.  The 23-year-old right-hander had been a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres in 2011.  His brother, Tyson, missed practically all of the 2016 season with the San Diego Padres due to shoulder problems, after having been their best pitcher the two previous seasons.  Tyson was signed by the Texas Rangers as a free agent during the offseason.

Jayson Werth was in this sixth year of a seven-year contract with the Nationals last year, when he hit 21 home runs and 69 RBI.  He part of a three-generation family of ballplayers from his mother’s side of the family.  His grandfather, Dick “Ducky” Schofield, was a major-league utility infielder from 1953 to 1971, primarily with the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.  Jayson’s uncle, Dick Schofield, was a 14-year major-league shortstop, with twelve of his seasons playing for the California Angels.  He is the stepson of Dennis Werth, a first baseman who played parts of four major-league seasons from 1979 to 1982 with the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals.  Jayson’s father, Jeff Gowan, played a minor league season in the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 1978.

The Nationals’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives played professionally, several of them with famous last names in baseball.

Cody Dent, in his fourth seasons with the Nationals farm system, is the son of Bucky Dent, who hit the dramatic three-run home run for the New York Yankees in the 1978 American League East tie-breaker win against the Boston Red Sox.

Cutter Dykstra, an outfielder with Washington’s Double-A Harrisburg affiliate last year, is the son of Lenny Dykstra, the scrappy outfielder of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets and a three-time all-star, and the brother of Luke Dykstra, an infielder currently in the Atlanta Braves organization.

Carter Kieboom, the Nationals’ first-round draft pick last year, is the brother of Spencer Kieboom who made his major-league debut with the Nats in 2016.

Jaron Long, a pitcher at the Triple-A level for the Nationals last season, is the son of Kevin Long, who is the hitting coach for the New York Mets.

Ryan Ripken, who completed his third minor-league season with the Nationals in 2016, is the son of Cal Ripken Jr., the Hall of Fame shortstop of the Baltimore Orioles.  He is the nephew of Billy Ripken, former major league infielder from 1987 to 1998 and the grandson of former Orioles coach and manager, Cal Ripken Sr.

Mariano Rivera III was the fourth-round pick of the Nationals in 2015.  Last year he pitched in 39 games for Single-A Hagerstown, recording five wins and eight saves.  He is the son of Mariano Rivera, the legendary relief pitcher of the New York Yankees who retired in 2013.

Matt Skole was an infielder with the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate Syracuse in 2016, when he hit 24 home runs and 78 RBI.  He is the brother of Jake Skole, an outfielder in the New York Yankees farm system, and the grandson of Tom Skole, who played in the St. Louis Browns organization in 1951-1952.

The 2016 Nationals had their share of baseball relatives in the dugout and front office, too.

Dusty Baker spent his first year as the Nationals manager last season, after twenty years of managing the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, and Cincinnati Reds.  He also played nineteen seasons in the majors.  While managing the Giants during the 2002 World Series, Dusty’s son, Darren, was a batboy who was swept up by the Giants’ J. T. Snow to avoid a collision at home plate where another Giants base-runner was in the process of scoring.  Darren is now playing baseball at the University of California.

Bob Boone is a senior advisor to the Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo.  He was a major-league catcher for nineteen years (1972-1990), including four all-star and seven Gold Glove Award seasons.  Bob managed in the majors for six seasons, splitting his time between the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds.  Two of Bob’s sons, Bret and Aaron, had lengthy major league careers as infielders which included all-star seasons, while another son, Matt, played seven seasons in the minors.  Bob’s father, Ray, was a major league infielder from 1948 to 1960, including all-star seasons in 1954 and 1956.

Billy Gardner Jr. was the manager of the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate Syracuse in 2016.  He has been a minor-league coach and manager since 1990 with numerous organizations.  His father, Billy Gardner Sr., was a major-league player for ten seasons and a manager for six seasons, primarily with the Minnesota Twins.

Mike Maddux was in his first season as the Nationals pitching coach last year, after seven years in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers.  He had a 15-year career as a pitcher with nine different teams.  He is the brother of Greg Maddux, the Hall of Fame pitcher who won 355 career games and four Cy Young awards.

Kasey McKeon was the Nationals’ director of player procurement last season.  He previously played in the minors from 1989 to 1991 and held positions in scouting and player development for several major-league organizations.  His father is former major-league manager and executive Jack McKeon.  At age 72, he managed the Florida Marlins to a World Series title in 2003.  Kasey’s brother-in-law is former major-league pitcher Greg Booker.  Kasey is the nephew of Bill McKeon, former minor league player and a major-league scout.  He is the uncle of Zach Booker, a minor-league player from 2007 to 2011.

Calvin Minasian was the minor-league clubhouse and equipment manager for the Nationals last year.  His father, Zach Sr. had been the equipment manager in the Texas Rangers organization for over twenty years.  His brother, Zach Jr. is a scouting executive in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, while brother Perry was a scouting executive in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.  Altogether, the Minasian family has over 90 years of service in professional baseball.

Sam Narron was a minor league coach in the Nationals organization last year, and he comes from a family with an extensive background in baseball.  His father, Samuel “Rooster” Narron, played in the minors in 1967 and 1969 with the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles organizations.  His grandfather, Sam, played briefly for the St. Louis Cardinals in parts of three seasons between 1935 and 1943.  His uncle, Milton, played in the New York Giants’ farm system from 1946 to 1951.  Sam’s cousin, Jerry, was a major league player, coach, and manager in over forty years in the game.  His cousin, Johnny, is currently a minor league coordinator in the Los Angeles Angels organization, having previously been a major-league coach for Cincinnati, Texas, and Milwaukee.  His cousin, Connor, was a fifth-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2010 and played five seasons in the Orioles and Brewers organizations.

Mike Rizzo is currently the General Manager and President of Baseball Operations for the Nationals.  He has had a long career in scouting, as has his father, Phillip, who is currently a special advisor to Mike. Mike’s grandfather, Vito, also had a background in baseball scouting.

Chris Speier was the bench coach for the Nationals last year.  He played in the infield for five major-league teams during 1971 to 1989 and was selected an all-star three times.  His son, Justin, was a major-league middle relief pitcher from 1998 to 2009.  His nephew, Gabe, is currently a pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

Baseball’s Relatives Website

The entire list of 2016 active major and minor league players and non-players can be retrieved at:

https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/2016-family-ties/

 

 

Father’s Day All-Star Team Rooting for Potential Major League Sons

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi, June 17, 2016

On Father’s Day last year, I compiled a list of major-league all-stars who were fathers of major-league players. The mythical team represented a good look back in history at some dads who were among the best players in the game. There were some pretty good names on the list—Berra, Griffey, Bonds, Raines, and Rose.

To honor baseball dads this year, I’m taking a different twist on the same subject.

The all-star team I’ve compiled this time is indeed comprised of fathers who starred in the big-leagues. However, their sons, who are currently following in their dad’s baseball footsteps, are prospects still grinding their way through college and the minors.

Not that long ago, most of these sons were hanging out with their dads in major league clubhouses or shagging balls in the outfield during dad’s batting practices before games. Those early childhood experiences likely fueled their aspirations to ultimately join the ranks of “major leaguers” like their fathers.

On this Father’s Day, the tables will be turned, since these all-star dads will be pulling for their sons to pitch and hit well enough, so as to improve their chances of one day getting to the “Big Show” themselves.

Starting Pitcher – Roger Clemens won 354 career games and is 3rd on the all-time leader list in career strikeouts.  He won the Cy Young Award a record seven times.  Twice he struck out 20 batters in a game.  He would already be in the Baseball Hall of Fame if it were not for his suspected involvement with PEDs.  Three of Clemens’ sons have followed in his footsteps.  (Note that all the sons’ names begin with “K” – the symbol for “strikeout.”) Kacy and Kody played for the University of Texas this year, after having been drafted by major league teams out of high school. Koby has played in the minors for the Astros and Blue Jays organizations and later in independent league baseball.

Relief Pitcher – Mariano Rivera is the all-time saves leader in baseball with 652.  He pitched in seven World Series for the Yankees and recorded an astonishing 0.70 ERA and 42 saves during his post-season career that included 96 games.  He is a lock to be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.  Mariano’s son, Mariano III, is a relief pitcher like his father.  He was the 4th round pick of the Washington Nationals in 2015 and is currently pitching at the Class-A level.

Catcher – Mike Matheny played thirteen major league seasons for the Brewers, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Giants.  While he never played at an all-star level during his career, Matheny developed a keen sense for the game that has allowed him to become one of the top young managers in major league baseball today.  Matheny’s son, Tate, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2015, and the outfielder currently plays at the Class-A level.  Mike has two other sons with futures in pro baseball. Jake has committed to play for Indiana University, while Luke has committed to Oklahoma State University.

First-Base – Rafael Palmeiro is one of only five players in history to get 3,000 hits and slam 500 home runs in his career.  However, his fabulous career has been stained by failing a drug test during his last season.  Consequently, he won’t likely get elected to what would have otherwise been a sure spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  However, his sons have put on the spikes to follow in dad’s footsteps. Patrick played in the Chicago White Sox organization for three seasons and is currently playing in the independent leagues.  Last year, his 50-year-old father came out of retirement for one game to play with Patrick in a league game. Rafael’s other son, Preston, was drafted this year out of North Carolina State University by the Baltimore Orioles in the 7th round.

Second Base – Craig Biggio could have landed a spot on this imaginary all-star team at three different positions.  He has the distinction of being a regular starter for the Houston Astros at three different positions during his career: catcher, second base, and centerfield.  He attained all-star status as a catcher and second baseman.  He compiled over 3,000 hits, 660 doubles, and 1,800 runs scored during a Hall of Fame career. Biggio coached his two sons in high school, and both went on to play baseball at the University of Notre Dame. Cavan was drafted this year by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 5th round. Conor was selected by his dad’s team, the Astros, in the 34th round of the 2015 draft.

Third Base – Dante Bichette was a four-time National League all-star for the Colorado Rockies and was runner-up in the MVP voting in 1995.  He compiled a .299 batting average, 274 home runs, and 1,142 RBI during his 14-year career.  Bichette, coached his son, Dante Jr., in the Little League World Series competition in 2005, and Dante Jr. is now playing in his sixth season in the New York Yankees organization.  Bichette’s other son, Bo, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd round of this year’s draft.

Shortstop – Cal Ripken Jr. is the Hall of Fame shortstop best known for his consecutive game streak of 2,632 for the Baltimore Orioles.  He was a 19-time all-star and two-time American League MVP.  His physical size of 6’ 4” and 200 lbs. re-defined the shortstop position in the major leagues during the 1980s.  Ripken comes from a baseball family, as his father was a long-time coach and manager of the Orioles, while his brother Billy played in twelve major league seasons as an infielder.  Cal’s son, Ryan, was drafted in 2012 and then again in 2014, and is now playing at the Single-A level in the Washington Nationals organization.

Outfield – Vladimir Guerrero was often noted as wild-swinging hitter, but he managed to hit 449 home runs, drive in 1,496 runs, and hit for a .318 average during his sixteen-year career.  He was the American League MVP in 2004 and was an all-star selection nine times.  His performance should earn him a spot in Cooperstown.  Guerrero’s 17-year-old son from the Dominican Republic, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., was one of the top international free agents last year and was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays for $3.9 million. However, he has yet to play in the minor leagues in the U. S.  Guerrero Sr. had a brother who also played in the major leagues, and his nephew, Gabby Guerrero, is currently a top prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

Outfield – Carl Yastrzemski is one of the all-time great Boston Red Sox players.  He’s in the Hall of Fame based on his career numbers of 452 home runs, 1,844 RBI, and .285 batting average.  He was an all-star in three different decades, the Triple Crown winner in 1967, and MVP of the American League in 1967.  He’s on my list of all-star dads, but in fact he is the grandfather of Mike Yastrzemski, currently playing at the Triple-A level in the Baltimore Orioles organization.  Mike is a third-generation professional player, as his father, also named Mike, played five seasons of minor league baseball.

Outfield – Magglio Ordonez was a six-time all-star in the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers organizations.  During his 15-year career, he managed to hit for a .309 average, slugged 294 home runs and 1,236 RBI.  In 2007, he finished second in MVP voting in the American League.  Ordonez’ 20-year-old son, Magglio Jr., played for Detroit’s rookie league team last season.

Manager – John Farrell is currently in his fourth year as manager of the Boston Red Sox, having claimed a World Series championship in 2013.  A former major league pitcher, Farrell has three sons involved in professional baseball. Luke is currently pitching in the Kansas City Royals organization at the Triple-A level. Jeremy was drafted in 2008 and played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization last season. Shane was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, but chose a career as a pro scout, currently working in the Chicago Cubs organization.  The three Farrell sons represent a third generation of ballplayers, as their grandfather, Tom, played briefly in the minors in the mid-1950s.

Vlad Guerrero Jr. a Chip Off the Old Block

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looks and plays like his father and will soon join him in the ranks of professional baseball, when he is expected to sign with a major league organization as soon as he is eligible later in July.

Guerrero Sr. is a 16-year veteran of the big leagues, amassing 449 career home runs and compiling a .318 batting average.

Currently 16-years-old, Guerrero Jr. has been training to be a professional player since age seven.  He is being tutored by his uncle, Wilton Guerrero, who was also a major league player.

Read more about the Guerreros at the link below from baseballessential.com:

http://www.baseballessential.com/news/2015/03/18/vladimir-guerrero-jr-ready-to-follow-in-dads-footsteps-surpass-him/

Vladimir Guerrero’s Son Is A Prospect

Former Major League player Vladimir Guerrero has a 15-year-old son, also named Vladimir, who appears to be on a track to follow his father’s footsteps in baseball. Vladi Jr. is a physical specimen at 6′ 2″ and 220 pounds. He recently attended a try-out day in the Dominican Republic sponsored by the Angels, Yankees and Blue Jays.

See related story about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the link below from Yahoo Sports!:
https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/eh-game/time-flies–vladimir-guerrero-s-namesake-son-is-15–and-a-baseball-prospect-200214278.html