The father-son bond, and the role baseball can play in it, is a well-covered subject. We've all seen "Field of Dreams" and know the game can be handed down from one generation to another like a priceless heirloom.There have been countless sons of former big leaguers to go into the
The father-son bond, and the role baseball can play in it, is a well-covered subject. We've all seen "Field of Dreams" and know the game can be handed down from one generation to another like a priceless heirloom.
There have been countless sons of former big leaguers to go into the family business and also reach the big leagues. Often, they go on to have even better careers than their fathers did.
The Blue Jays certainly hope that's the case. The organization has six sons of players who played the game at a very high level in the Minor Leagues and one more coming via the 2018 Draft, assuming he signs. A trio of them, when healthy, suit up for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. make up a tremendous second-generation threesome, with two Hall of Fame dads to boast. Some others, like John Smith and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., have already reached Toronto. Kacy Clemens and Griffin Conine are just starting their climbs. Let the nature vs. nurture debate commence!
"It's not by design to sign sons of prominent big leaguers," Blue Jays farm director Gil Kim said. "What is by design is valuing the ability to compete, the aptitude, the teammate and the awareness that these young men have, and recognizing that those types of makeups translate to people who can maximize their potential and can help drive a championship culture.
"There has to be value to the years of being with their dads in clubhouses and on fields, observing how the best teammates lead, how the great players prepare and the level of commitment and passion required to succeed at the highest level. You'd think that translates and you'd think that those experiences have in some way helped to shape the grit and the feel of Cavan, the intensity and aggressiveness of Bo, the professionalism and work ethic of Kacy, the calmness and field awareness of Dwight and the confidence and baseball IQ that Vlad possesses.
"We try our best to drive a learning environment, and it's a unique opportunity for our players and staff to be able to casually pick the brains of Hall of Famers and All-Stars on the back fields or out at our affiliates."
Dante and Bo Bichette
Dante: 6-3/215, R/R, OF -- 4-time All-Star; .299/.336/.499; 1984 17th-round pick
Bo: 6-0/200, R/R, SS -- Blue Jays' No. 2 prospect; MLB's No. 9; 2016 2nd-round pick
Dante was never a helicopter parent, but let's just say he used to be super involved. After a 14-year big league career that saw him hit 274 homers and steal 152 bases to go along with a .299 average, he still had the competitive juices flowing after he hung them up following the 2001 season. His older son, Dante Jr., got the brunt of that leftover need to excel. Dante Sr. still wants his younger son to succeed, he's just a little more chill about it.
"I'm getting better at just being a fan dad and not being the ex-player," Dante said. "Bo had it a little easier than with the older one because I was too competitive when I retired. I can sit back and relax more now. I was too much of a coach. Kids have to learn on their own, they have to figure things out on their own. Bo had that luxury. I tell him simple things and then let him go."
Especially when the year is going on, Dante won't meddle and he says it's always his son who leads the conversation. That's not a dad's-eye view; his son agrees.
"A lot in the offseason; all the time in the offseason," Bo said about when they talk hitting. "During the season, it's more when I need it, I'll call him and ask him. He'll come and visit every once in a while. During the season, I'd say it's once every couple of weeks."
During the offseason, dad is more than a hitting coach. He's batting practice pitcher/competition. This isn't just simple toss from behind an L-screen and work on your swing mechanics kind of stuff.
"I still throw really well, high 80s. Nothing else works, but my arm does," Dante said. "We go at it and I try to get him out. We have sessions like that. It's not routine BP. He's taking at-bats in the offseason. They say you should try to get 2,000 at-bats before you get to the big leagues. We try to shorten that curve a little bit.
"I root for him to be better than I was. Because he plays a tougher position and he does more things than I did on a baseball field, he has a real shot. He has high expectations for himself, so I hope he reaches all of them."
Craig and Cavan Biggio
Craig: 5-11/185, R/R, C/2B/OF -- Hall of Fame; 7-time All-Star; 1987 1st-round pick
Cavan: 6-1/203, L/R, 2B/3B/1B -- Blue Jays' No. 19 prospect; 2016 6th-round pick
All parents want their kids to be better than they were, or to have more success than they had on whatever path they choose. When you go into the family business and your dad is a Hall of Famer, that's a hard dream to reach. Luckily, the Biggios have managed to stay realistic and grounded, with Craig not setting a 3,000-hit bar for his son.
"As an individual, you set your own goals and sights," Craig said. "For me, as a father and a former player, I want him to be as good as he can be. It can be unfair, we live in an industry when we compare players to players. It's hard. I just want for any kid to go out and be as good as they can be, whatever that is."
"My dad and I are two different players," Cavan said. "We draw a lot of comparisons with a lot of things over the course of a game, but when I go out and play, I'm always playing the game that I know, that I've learned for myself. I say there's not that much pressure. He was one of the greatest to ever play the game, so to even come close to who he was is success in my book."
Having a Hall of Fame dad does have some privileges, especially because Cavan and his older brother Conor, who was his teammate at Notre Dame, were old enough to tag along with Craig in Houston. The lessons were clearly invaluable.
"My dad, he wasn't around a lot when I was a kid, but whenever he was home for a home game, I would always want to go to the ballpark with him," Cavan said. "Allowing me and my brother to do that has had an impact from being around the game at the highest level, trying to learn from not just my dad, but other guys and how they prepare. That's had an impact on my career because I've kind of had tastes since I was a kid of what it takes to be a Major Leaguer and stay a consistent Major Leaguer."
That understanding, that professionalism and respect for the game and other people, it's the kind of thing that would make any dad beam, though Craig knows better than to hog the spotlight on what kind of man his son has become.
"That's the ultimate compliment," Craig said. "I have to give my wife Patty a lot of credit. [Cavan] is a respectful and humble kid. He goes out there and works hard and wants to be as good as he can be.
"Being a dad who was in and out for the most part until high school, that's the hardest part of being in the big leagues: the family. Dad is there, he's not there, he's there. It's hard, for the kids. The compliments I receive on how he conducts himself, that's the ultimate compliment for a parent."
Vladimir and Vladimir Guerrero
Vlad Sr: 6-3/235, R/R, OF -- Hall of Fame; 9-time All-Star; 2004 American League Most Valuable Player Award winnerr
Vlad Jr: 6-1/200, R/R, 3B -- Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect; MLB's No. 2
More than anyone in this group, Vlad Jr. gets compared to his dad. "Like his dad, but with better plate discipline," the scouting report often goes. Junior isn't as tall as dad, but there are some definite similarities. And the younger Guerrero is just fine with that.
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So far, he's done everything he can to live up to the name. He'd arguably been the best hitter in the Minor Leagues this year until he was sidelined with a knee injury recently. But big league lineage can come in handy for a young player even when he's on the disabled list.
"Not only my dad, but my whole family has been helping me to get through this," Vlad Jr. said. "Thanks to them, I feel great and I will keep giving my 100 percent to get this rehab done and come back and play at my best.
"I want to thank God for giving me a dad like him. He's always been there for me. He taught me a lot, not just in baseball -- also in life. I wish him a great Father's Day -- not only him, but to all fathers in the world."
Dwight and Dwight Smith
Dwight Sr: 5-11/175, L/R, OF -- 2nd in 1989 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner; .275/.333/.422; 1984 3rd-round pick
Dwight Jr: 5-11/195, L/R, OF -- .333/.397/.491 in 57 MLB AB; 2011 Comp A pick (No. 53)
Dwight Sr. was actually drafted by the Blue Jays in the January phase of the 1984 Draft, but he didn't sign. He landed with the Cubs that June and spent five seasons with Chicago, finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting in 1989. He had eight years of big league time when all was said and done, last appearing with the Braves in 1996.
Dwight Jr. was drafted by the Blue Jays with the 53rd overall pick of the 2011 Draft. It took six years, but he made his Major League debut in '17 and has been up with Toronto this year, picking up his first career big league homer. He has 57 career at-bats at the highest level, so he has some work to do to catch up to dad's career total of 1,807.
Lourdes and Lourdes Gurriel
Lourdes Sr: 6-0/198, R/R, OF/1B -- Longtime Cuban star; 1976-77 ROY; 1992 Olympic gold medalist
Lourdes Jr: 6-2/185, R/R, SS/2B -- .206/.229/.309 in 68 MLB AB; Signed for $22M in 2016
Lourdes Jr. defected from Cuba with his brother Yuli in 2016. Yuli made it to the big leagues that year and is a part of the Houston Astros team that won the World Series a year ago. Lourdes Jr. made it up to Toronto this year and has a pair of homers on his resume.
Dad is one of the most famous players in the history of Cuban baseball. Lourdes Sr. played for the national team for 15 years, won a gold medal, two batting titles and an MVP Award in Cuba. He also managed the national team. The Gurriels were a baseball dynasty in Cuba. The brothers playing in the United States now have an older brother who played 16 seasons in Cuba's Serie Nacional. They also have an uncle, great uncle and cousin who starred in Cuba.
Roger and Kacy Clemens
Roger: 6-4/205, R/R, RHP -- 7-time Cy Young Award winner; 1986 MVP; 1983 1st-round pick (No. 19)
Kacy: 6-0/200, L/R, 1B -- .260/.379/.425 in 435 MiLB AB; 2017 8th-round pick
Roger won 350 games, seven Cy Young Awards, two World Series rings and the 1986 AL MVP Award. Two of those Cy Young Awards came in his back-to-back seasons with the Blue Jays in '97 and '98, when he also led the league in wins and ERA.
Koby and Kacy, two of Roger's kids, have played pro ball. Koby's last year of affiliated ball was in the Blue Jays' organization, and Kacy is currently with Dunedin in the Florida State League after being an eighth-round pick in the 2017 Draft out of Texas. Younger brother Kody should join the Tigers after the Longhorns are done in the College World Series. Kacy is a first baseman who began the year in the Midwest League but moved up a level after posting a 1.077 OPS over his first 27 games.
Jeff and Griffin Conine
Jeff: 6-1/205, R/R, OF -- 2-time All-Star; 2-time WS champion; 1987 58th-round pick
Griffin: 6-1/200, L/R, OF -- 2-time 2nd-team All-ACC; 2018 2nd-round pick
Jeff was a 58th-round pick of the Royals back in 1987. He then defied the odds by spending parts of 17 seasons in the big leagues, making two All-Star games, winning two World Series titles and finishing with 214 homers and almost 2,000 hits.
His son, Griffin, beat him by 56 rounds when the Blue Jays made him a second-round pick this June. He had a huge showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, and then hit 18 homers in 216 at-bats this year at Duke and was No. 50 on MLB Pipeline's Top 200 Draft Prospects list. Conine fits the right-field profile well with his power bat and strong arm.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.