BOSTON ( Associated Press) — Growing up as the son of a major league ballplayer, Terry Francona knew the rules: “Talk only when talked, or I’ll be scolded.”
When Francona became a big league manager and his players moved their children around, he ran a more hospitable clubhouse.
“There used to be a big sign that said ‘no kids,’ or whatever,” said Francona, who follows his father, Tito, to the majors and is now manager of the Cleveland Guardian. “My rule was: You can come in, but you have to come in and say ‘hello’ to me.”
Major league clubhouses these days are more welcoming of players’ kids—not just kids raiding the bubble gum bin. Some of those tykes themselves become big league ballplayers.
In all, more than two dozen major league offspring are on the AL or NL roster this year. Blue Jays alone have threeThe son of Hall of Famers Craig Biggio (Cavan) and Vladimir Guerrero (Vlad Jr.) and Bo Bichet, whose father, Dante, was a four-time All-Star with the Rockies.
“I learned everything I know about baseball,” said younger Bichette, whose father was the Blue Jays’ hitting coach, before he stepped down so he could work with his son during the lockdown.
“I was very grateful to my father,” he said. “But at the same time, just want to put myself out there. Play as hard as I can. I don’t necessarily make a name for myself, but just be my own player.
With a boost from genetics, access to good coaching and equipment – and of course a little name recognition too – the offspring of major league players have long followed their fathers into spike points.
According to the Baseball AlmanacFrom Cubs left-hander Jack Dosher in 1903 to Roger Clemens’ son Cody, who made his debut with the Tigers the previous month, the major leaguers’ 252 sons have made it on their own.,
There have been superstar fathers with forgetful sons along the way — no offense, Pete Rose Jr., aka “The Hit Prince” — and kids who outlived their dads’ careers, including Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. .
“I was definitely proud of my family, and what my brother or dad or grandfather was able to do in their careers,” said former fielder and current Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “But the pressure on me was 60 feet, 6 inches away, and that was how I always approached him. Nothing was going to get in his way.”
Boone and his brother Brett are the sons and grandsons of major leaguers; Brett’s son Jake was drafted, but has yet to make it as the first fourth-generation big leaguer. (Gus Bell’s great-grandson Luke, nephew of Reds manager David Bell, is also in the running.)
And it’s not just baseball: Arch Manning, grandson of Hall of Famer Archie and nephew of Peyton and Allie, is a top-ranked college football recruit coming out of high school. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors had four players whose fathers played in the league: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Gary Peyton II, and Andrew Wiggins.
For all of them, being a second generation professional athlete has its advantages.
After Cody Clemens was first called, Dad’s old teammates Derek Jeter and Jeff Bagwell texted for advice. Francona said he would ride home from the ballpark in the back seat of the car, while his father and exposure reliever Claude Raymond would talk pitching.
“I guess I was like the only 10-year-old who knew you stood up and down, down and away,” Francona said. “I just heard everything. Maybe too much.”
Cavan Biggio said that he inherited his passion for the sport from his father. But for the most part, being around only professional athletes was an education.
“Seeing how they go about their business and what not, I was able to see it as a small child,” he said. “Growing up and being able to see at the highest level what it’s supposed to look like, I think that benefited me a little bit.”
The Blue Jays have a “Vlad and Dad” bobblehead scheduled for the end of this season, with both Guerreros on a pedestal. Clemens was ranked number 21 as what his father wore for most of his career, winning a record seven Cy Young Awards; Three generations of Bells wore the number 25.
But most kids try to avoid comparison.
“I’m trying to build my career path here,” said Clemens, whose only pitching appearance was a mop-up role in a blowout. “We always say I’m glad I’m a hitter, not a pitcher, so I don’t have to live for that. Half his career is unbelievable.”
The sons of Red Sox players Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Keith Folke – all members of the team that won the World Series in 2004 – are playing together on a Summer League team outside Boston. (Jaden Sheffield, whose father, Gary, played for rival Yankees that year, is also on the team of college players hoping to attract the attention of pro scouts.)
Francona led the Red Sox to their first championship in 86 years that season. Told that the children of some of his best players – and the biggest clubhouse characters – were all over Brockton Rocks, he shook his head, nodded and said “God.”
“I remember when D’Angelo (Ortiz) would put his head in, he and Victor Martínez’s son, they would pop in his head every day,” said Francona of the boy who is now 6-foot-2, 200. — The pound 17-year-old who batted .351 for Miami-Dade High School this spring.
“They’ll come in, sit on the couch all excited,” said Francona. “Now it makes me feel really old.”
Associated Press Baseball Writers Jay Cohen, Ron Blum and Jenny McCauley; Associated Press Sports Writers Bernie Wilson, George Henry and Steve Megarzy; and freelancers Ian Harrison, Mike Cook and Mark Gonzalez contributed to this report.
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