By Brian Hoffman – Sports Editor
It seems like baseball, more than any other sport, is a family tradition.
Major League Baseball held its annual player draft just prior to the all-star game and you didn’t need a scorecard to keep track. A genealogy website would likely be more helpful.
Jackson Holliday, a shortstop from Oklahoma, was the first pick overall by the Orioles. That sure makes me feel old, as it seems like just yesterday his dad, Matt, was playing for the Salem Avalanche in the Carolina League.
Druw Jones, son of former Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones, went next to the Diamondbacks. I had Andruw on my fantasy team when he was a rookie.
Two other sons of former big leaguers went in the first round, Carl Crawford’s son Justin to the Phillies at 17th and Lou Collier’s son Cam to the Reds, who went 19th overall. Those are some pretty impressive bloodlines.
As I see it, this happens more in baseball than any other sport. Oh sure, you have the Mannings with Archie, Peyton, Eli and now Arch, but you have to search to find many others. Same thing in basketball, although we’re keeping an eye on “Bronny.”
In baseball, however, it’s a family affair. And, more often than not, the son is as good, or better, than the dad.
For example, Fernando Tatis was a decent Major League player but Tatis, Jr. is a rising star. Ken Griffey was solid for the Reds and his son, Griffey, Jr., is a Hall of Famer. Vladimir Guerrero was a really good player and his son, Vlad, Jr., may not be better but he could end up being just as good. Barry Bonds would have been better than Barry even without the ’roids.
Other current sons of former big leaguers currently in the league include Bo Bichette, son of Dante, Cavan Biggio, son of Craig, Cam Bedrosian, son of Steve, and some who had lesser known big league fathers like Cody Bellinger (Clay), Michael Brantley (Mickey), Robinson Cano (Jose), and C.J. and Kevin Cron (Chris).
Then you have third generation families, like Ray Boone, son Bob and grandsons Brett and Aaron. I had a baseball card of Gus Bell when I was a kid, and his son Buddy and grandsons David and Mike also became big leaguers. Sandy Alomar had two kids, Roberto and Sandy, Jr., who were both better players than dad. Sammy Hairston had sons Jerry and Johnny and Jerry then had sons Jerry, Jr. and Scott, all who played in the big leagues. None of them were big stars, like Barry Bonds or Griffey, Jr., but just to make a big league roster is a great accomplishment.
According to the “Baseball Almanac,” there have been 253 father-son combinations who have made a Major League roster in the history of baseball, and a good majority have been in the past 30 years. You won’t find that in any other sport, with football next at 129 father-son combinations. The NBA is currently at 90.
Why is that? I have a theory.
Baseball season lasts from late winter into autumn, counting spring training and the World Series. That’s a lot of time, and parents don’t want to stay away from their kids so they bring them to the ballpark. And, they can do so because the kids don’t go to school in the summer. I know many of these sons of big leaguers were bat boys for their dad’s team when they were kids, and if you’re around the ballpark and playing catch with dad’s friends it’s bound to make you better.
You don’t see that in football. Basketball could be like that (see Dell, Stephen and Seth Curry), but it’s so darned hard to make an NBA team with half as many players at the top level in a sport where you need to be physically gifted. It’s not like baseball, where John Kruk once replied to a fan who called him a disgrace for an athlete, “I’m not an athlete, I’m a baseball player.”
Certainly, it’s not easy to become a big league baseball player, but if you have some ability and a father with a history there’s a good chance you’ll at least get a look.
Does anyone remember the month that Mickey Mantle, Jr. spent in the Carolina League? That’s a good story for another day.
The high school football season is less than a month away as both the Lord Botetourt and James River teams open practice this week. Both teams will hit the gridiron on Thursday.
LB will get an early start as the Cavaliers will try to beat the heat with 7:30 a.m. practices. James River will go from 4-9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, then go from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Lord Botetourt will first scrimmage on Thursday, August 11, against Dobyns Bennett High from Tennessee at Emory & Henry College, beginning at 5 p.m. On August 19 the Cavs host Jefferson Forest at 6 p.m. in Daleville before opening the season at home against E.C. Glass on August 26.
James River will scrimmage Staunton High at home on Friday, August 12. That will be followed by a football jamboree in Springwood on August 19 with multiple schools participating. The Knights open the season at Buffalo Gap on August 26.
CITY-COUNTY SWIM MEET IS THIS WEEK
The Roanoke Valley Aquatic Association will conduct the annual Duane Whitenack City-County Swim Meet this weekend at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. Locally, Read Mountain, Ashley Plantation and Limestone Park will have teams in the pool.
The meet will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, with 10 and under swimmers in the morning and 11 and over in the afternoon. Friday strokes include the Backstroke, Short Freestyle, Individual Medley and Freestyle Relays. Saturday will have the Butterfly, Breaststroke, Long Freestyle and wrap up with the Medley Relays.
There will be 13 area swim teams competing.
WELLS TRANSFERS TO ELON
Former Lord Botetourt standout softball pitcher Meredith Wells will be pitching for Elon University in Elon, N.C. this year. Wells has transferred from James Madison University after two seasons on the Dukes’ roster.
“We are excited to add a player of Meredith’s caliber to our program,” said Elon head coach Kathy Bocock. “She comes from a great program with a winning culture at JMU and will fit into our team dynamic while adding some great depth to our pitching rotation next year.”
Wells made 12 total appearances in the circle with the Dukes including going 3-1 this past spring with an ERA of 4.59 in 29.0 innings of action. She also added a pair of complete-game performances including a two-hit shutout over George Mason. Wells also excelled academically at JMU as she was named an NFCA Academic All-American and was selected to the CAA Commissioner’s Honor Roll in her first two seasons.
Meredith was a first team All-Region pitcher for Lord Botetourt but missed her senior season due to the COVID pandemic.