Blue Jays showcase star-studded family ties

Lineup against Canadian Junior National Team dotted with sons of baseball luminaries

March 17th, 2018

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays rolled out a star-studded infield on Saturday afternoon that featured some of the biggest names in the game: Guerrero, Clemens, Biggio and Bichette.

No, the men who made those names famous throughout the 1980s and '90s did not make an improbable comeback. Instead, it was their sons -- the next generation of ballplayers, the ones who hope to keep their family names in the spotlight -- who were on the field for Toronto.

Toronto trotted out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third base, Bo Bichette at shortstop, Cavan Biggio at second and Kacy Clemens at first for its annual game against the Canadian Junior National Team. Toss in outfielder and Canada's Braden Halladay and there was no shortage of baseball pedigree on display at Dunedin Stadium in the Blue Jays' 11-3 win.

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"We all grew up with a last name on our back that people kind of turn their head towards," Clemens said. "I guess we have a target on our back, so to speak -- whether that's good or bad, that's for you guys to decide. I think it's a commonality between all of us, we all kind of feel the same way about it. We're here to make our own trail, make our own path to the big leagues and kind of set our own legacy for ourselves."

The Blue Jays did not intentionally set out to target the sons of former big leaguers, it just happened to work out that way. Smith was selected out of high school by Toronto way back in 2011. Guerrero signed as an international free agent early in '16, and Bichette joined the organization later that year as a second-round Draft pick. Clemens and Biggio arrived last June.

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There are others players inside the organization with baseball roots in their family, as well. Outfielder D.J. Davis' father played for the Blue Jays in the Minor Leagues, while Brandon Grudzielanek's uncle, Mark, enjoyed a 15-year career in the big leagues. Both players also got into Saturday's game alongside Mattingly Romanin, the son of former Blue Jays PR employee, Mal.

The family ties provide an interesting narrative, but it's really the group of Guerrero, Bichette, Biggio and Clemens who share a special bond. They all know what it was like to grow up around a Major League clubhouse. They know the pressure that comes with trying to grow up in the shadows of their fathers. They also know this is just the start of their own personal journeys.

"I think they're just excited to watch us play, honestly," Biggio said of their fathers. "I know Dante [Bichette] comes out and watches games when my dad is in the stands and they talk about stuff -- when they played, what they see on the field. I think it's pretty good for Bo and I just to be able to see them up in the stands, something they've already been through, and we're going through now. It's pretty cool."

Getting drafted by a Major League team is a major accomplishment, so Biggio and Clemens are no slouches. But it's Guerrero and Bichette who are expected to become stars at the next level. Even current Blue Jays have openly talked this spring about wanting to watch their games and batting-practice sessions to see what all of the hype is about.

got an up-close look at the youngsters on Saturday afternoon. Stroman tossed two scoreless innings against Team Canada and had the "infield of legacy" behind him. Bichette celebrated the occasion by going 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs, while Guerrero went 2-for-4 with a walk.

"I feel like these guys are like legends that you've never seen," Stroman said of Bichette and Guerrero. "I'm around, I've seen them in cages, I've seen some of their games on the Minor League side. Those guys are special. You don't get too many players like that [who] come across an organization. I'm not going to sit here and say they should wait in the Minors. I see what they're capable of, I see the at-bats that they take, I see the potential they have and, like I said, I would love to be playing with those guys behind me."