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Fathers blaze trails for ballplayer sons

Fathers blaze trails for ballplayer sons

On Father's Day this year, let's celebrate the latest generation of Major League players that include so many sons following their fathers. From Bobby Bonds to Barry Bonds, from Cecil Fielder to Prince Fielder, from Ken Griffey Sr. to Ken Griffey Jr.

This season, at one point, there were 30 offspring playing in the big leagues, following in the footsteps of their famous fathers, and creating a legacy that reaches back through the decades.

"It's genetics. It's all genetics," said Bonds, who at 42 is playing out the twilight of his career in San Francisco, where his father came up in 1968. "We're raised around the baseball field. We're raised around this environment. You have a tendency to love that environment when you're around it all the time."

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In many cases, the sons are bigger and better than their fathers, statistically speaking. For example, both the Bonds were big shots in the home run-stolen base club. Bobby reached the 300/300 level (332/461). Barry did much better: 500/500 (747/513).

The older Griffey was a steady player toiling for a great Reds team. Junior, now also a member of the Reds, has him in home runs (578-152), but his dad has him in World Series rings (2-0).

Junior, as a little tike, was fortunate enough to soak in the experience on the field while his dad's Big Red Machine flexed its muscles in the 1970s.

"I knew things at 9 or 10 that most guys don't know until they're 25," Griffey said. "Just like [13-year-old son] Trey knows more about baseball than some guys in the Minor Leagues. He sees what goes on here and what it takes to stay here."

Moises Alou may be luckier than most. Not only did his dad, Felipe, have a 17-year career with five teams, including the Giants and the Yankees, but his uncles, Matty and Jesus, also played in The Show. The three brothers, at one time, inhabited the same outfield for the Giants, but Moises has outhomered them all (321-269).

"Growing up and being the son of Felipe Alou in the Dominican Republic was big," Moises recalled. "I had the opportunity to visit some Major League parks, some big-league clubhouses, and my dad never forced me into playing baseball. I kind of just grew into that. Everybody wants to be like their dad. If your dad's a doctor, you want to be a doctor. I grew up wanting to be a baseball player."

And the parental good times didn't stop for the younger Alou when he reached adulthood. In Felipe's secondary career as a manager, Moises played for his dad, not once, but twice -- for a little more than five years from late 1991 to 1996, when Felipe managed the Expos, and for two more years in 2005 and 2006, when he headed the Giants.

"It was nice, especially because I didn't have a chance to spend much time with him while I was growing up because my parents were divorced," Moises said. "It was pretty awesome, playing for your dad in the big leagues, seeing your dad every day, flying with your dad, staying in the same hotel. That's the most I've ever seen him."

Aside from the field trips and summer road excursions, most big-league kids are separated from the dads for much of the year. Road trips and Spring Training might mean long stretches apart. Even when dad's at home, the kids go to school in the morning, and before they arrive home, dad usually is at the ballpark. Some dads even play, coach and manage in winter ball outside the United States.

The cycle never seems to stop. Still, heredity and desire sometimes offers an unbridled path for these kids to also make it in the big leagues. And just having a big-league father was enough to influence his future, Gary Matthews Jr., now with the Angels, said about his dad, Gary Matthews Sr., who played 16 seasons for the Giants, Braves, Phillies and Cubs.

"It wasn't so much the mechanics or anything [I learned from him], I just got accustomed to being around the game," the younger Matthews said. "Ever since I was young, I've been around the front office, been around players, coaches, been around umpires. I learned how to talk to the media, how to handle the atmosphere [of playing in the Major Leagues]. He did miss a lot of my games [growing up], but we're making up for it now."

Like father, like son
As of Father's Day 2007, 30 sons of former Major Leaguers had seen time in the big leagues this season.
Father
Years
Son
Years
Alou, Felipe 1958-74 Alou, Moises1990-present
Armas, Tony R. 1976-89 Armas, Tony 1999-present
Bacsik, Mike Sr. 1975-80 Bacsik, Mike Jr. 2001-present
Bannister, Floyd 1977-92 Bannister, Brian 2006-present
Barfield, Jesse 1981-92 Barfield, Josh 2006-present
Bonds, Bobby 1968-81 Bonds, Barry 1986-present
Boone, Bob 1972-90 Boone, Aaron 1997-present
Cano, Jose 1989 Cano, Robinson 2005-present
Crosby, Ed 1970-76 Crosby, Bobby 2003-present
Cruz, Jose Sr. 1970-88 Cruz, Jose Jr. 1997-present
DaVanon, Jerry 1969-77 DaVanon, Jeff 1999-present
Duncan, Dave 1964-76 Chris Duncan 2005-present
Fielder, Cecil 1985-98 Fielder, Prince 2005-present
Griffey, Ken Sr. 1973-91 Griffey, Ken Jr. 1989-present
Grilli, Steve 1975-79 Grilli, Jason 2000-present
Gwynn, Tony 1982-2001 Gwynn, Tony 2006-present
Hairston, Jerry Sr. 1973-89Hairston, Jerry Jr. 1999-present
Hairston, Scott 2004-present
Kendall, Fred 1969-80 Kendall, Jason 1996-present
LaRoche, Dave 1970-83 LaRoche, Adam 2004-present
LaRoche, Andy 2007-present
Matthews, Gary Sr. 1972-87 Matthews, Gary Jr. 1999-present
Niekro, Joe 1967-88 Niekro, Lance 2003-present
Oliver, Bob 1965-75 Darren Oliver 1993-present
Pena, Tony 1980-97 Pena, Tony 2006-present
Speier, Chris 1971-89 Speier, Justin 1998-present
Spiezio, Ed 1964-72 Spiezio, Scott 1996-present
Swisher, Steve 1974-82 Swisher, Nick 2004-present
Ward, Gary 1979-90 Ward, Daryl 1998-present
Wright, Clyde 1966-75 Wright, Jaret 1997-present
Source: Elias Sports Bureau

Josh Barfield, now with the Indians, said he learned similar lessons from his father, Jesse, who played 12 seasons for the Blue Jays and Yankees.

"Once you get up here, you knew how to conduct yourself and how you should act," the younger Barfield said. "Growing up, you watched your dad do it. On and off the field, you knew how to be a professional. I watched my dad go through the ups and downs, and that makes it easier for me to deal with all that now."

Cardinals utility man Scott Spiezio, winner of World Series rings in 2002 with the Angels and last year with St. Louis, said his father had retired by the time he was old enough to hang around the game. But that opened a whole new realm for their father-son relationship.

"I don't know how good I would have been without him," Spiezio said about his dad, Ed, who played nine seasons for the Cardinals and Padres. "We had structured practices about every day. He threw tennis balls to me, and then as I got older, he started throwing hardballs and hitting ground balls and fly balls. He'd show some tough pitching. When it got too cold, we would just practice in the basement. He taught me everything."

In the National Hockey League, it has long been brother combinations. Scott Niedermayer and his brother, Rob, just finished the season playing for the Stanley Cup-winning Ducks. In the long history of NHL brother playing with brother, they were the first combo to sip from the Cup since the Sutter brothers -- Duane and Brent -- did it on the 1983 Islanders.

Gordie Howe, then 51, even played professionally with his sons, Mark and Marty, in the World Hockey Association.

Baseball is known for its father-son continuum. The dad having a catch with his son and taking him to his first game. And once in a while, two boys come out of the same family to play in the big leagues:

Jerry Hairston Sr. begat Jerry Hairston Jr. and Scott Hairston, who's struggling to find himself as a utility player for the Diamondbacks. His older brother is with the Rangers and is currently on the disabled list because of pinched nerve in his neck.

Scott Hairston gave rave kudos to his father, who played 14 seasons -- almost entirely with the White Sox -- for bringing him along as a player.

"It was great," he said. "Usually, a son looks up to his father, and I think it was really cool going to the ballpark hanging out with the ballplayers and getting to go in the locker room. It's just something me and my brothers appreciated. Obviously, seeing my dad on TV was a thrill for me. Obviously, not every kid gets to experience that, and I knew that I was fortunate at that time."

Dave Duncan, the long-time Cardinals pitching coach, works on the same team with his son, Chris, who is a second-year outfielder. And there's Tony Gwynn Sr., bequeathing a Hall of Fame career to his son, Tony Gwynn Jr.

The older Duncan recalled what life was like as a baseball-playing father, bringing up his son.

"Certain parts of the season, [Chris] was around more than others, but once he got older, he started to become more active and wasn't around as much," said the elder Duncan, once a solid Major League catcher. "But when he was little, he was around a lot. In his high school years, I probably had less effect on what was going on with him on the field than prior to."

The younger Gwynn, who is trying to establish himself in his first full season with the Brewers, has his dad's stats to live up to: 20 seasons with the Padres; eight National League batting titles, 3,141 hits and a Hall of Fame induction slated for July 29.

"When I started asking questions, that's when my dad really started getting involved [in my career]," said Little Tony, who's playing the same position as his dad, the winner of five Gold Glove Awards as a right fielder. "I wish I would have started earlier. I think that might have helped the process and where I'm at today. But that being said, I very easily could have burned out had I committed to the game earlier. I appreciate that my dad let me make the choice. I appreciated everything my dad did as a baseball player."

Bonds was the quintessential ballpark brat.

His dad was only 22 years old when he came up with the Giants, and Barry was not yet 5. At that point, Willie Mays was a grizzled veteran of 37, and he took the rookie and Barry under his wing.

Stories abound about Barry crawling in and around Mays' locker. Mays, whom Bonds considers his godfather, helped expose him to the baseball world.

"I remember quite a bit [about that time]," Bonds said. "I remember all the time I was there. From about 5, I remember everything."

Bonds' dad was his conscience and hitting coach until he passed away from the ravages of cancer nearly four years ago.

On this Father's Day, like so many of his peers whose dads blazed the trail for their tremendous baseball careers, Bonds shared this sentiment:

"It all started with my father," he said, "so everything worked out for me for the best."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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