Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Baseball Wild for Sons

The Griffeys played together in Seattle.
I have to admit that I don't follow much about the baseball draft. Maybe a story or two will catch my attention. But I haven't heard of most of the players let alone ever seen them play, and most won't be in the majors for years. I tend to forget about all but those who start to show some promise.

One story did catch my eye today: An astonishing number of players have been drafted who are sons of star athletes. There are the sons of Wayne Gretzky, Ivan Rodriguez, Dante Bichette and Kevin Seitzer. The list includes others, including the offspring of former catcher Joe Oliver.

My favorite, though, is the great-nephew of Eddie Gaedel, the diminutive player whom Bill Veeck sent to the plate as a stunt. Kyle Gaedele (yes, he has an extra 'e'), played college ball at Vanderbilt. At 6-foot-4, he is more than 2 1/2 feet taller than his ancestor.

It all makes me ponder the nature/nurture question and how it impacts sports. The sons of players obviously have a genetic leg up on the competition. But they also get an early baseball education. They hang out around players at the ballpark from a young age. They get to hit in big league stadiums. The culture is part of them. Stories of Prince Fielder hanging out with dad Cecil and Barry Bonds with father Bobby are well known.

Ken Griffey Jr. managed to carve out a legacy greater than his father's fine career as a member of the Big Red Machine of the 1970s. Dick Sisler was a good player, but never matched his father, George, as a hitter. Sandy Alomar had two sons hit it big, Sandy Jr. and Roberto. Maybe he has the father-son daily double, although others have had multiple sons in the majors. Jerry Hairston has Scott and Jerry Jr. and Cal Ripken had Billy and Cal Jr.

I have no doubt it will be hard to miss what happens to the careers of some of this year's draftees. It will interesting to see where they end up in a few years.

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