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Former players see sons drafted
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06/05/2002 9:04 pm ET 
Former players see sons drafted
By Tom Singer /

Prince Fielder takes batting practice during a visit to Tiger Town last February. (Duane Burleson/AP)
Father's Day came early in living rooms all across America during the two days of the First-Year Player Draft, in which the sons of 28 former Major Leaguers were given the opportunity to ply dad's trade.

There were other evidences of bloodline, as six additional relatives of aged Boys of Summer received their own chances to shine in the sun.

The draftees also included the sons of a general manager (Jonathan Schuerholz, son of Atlanta's John) and of a head groundskeeper (John VandenBerg, son of Miller Park's Gary).

For one of the intriguing insets to the big picture, the sons of five current Major League managers, and the nephew of another, were among those drafted.

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The numbers probably represent a record (though such trends aren't officially tracked), considering baseball kin by themselves could've made up one of the draft's 50 rounds. If not in volume, the second-generation players certainly set a new standard in prominence, since three of them were first-rounders.

So once again we were treated to the charming cyclical nature of this game. How many lives, or at least carefree summer nights, flashed in front of fans' eyes as they heard such names as Fielder, Mayberry, Reuss and Hassey pronounced during the draft?

We always hear that being the son of a former Major Leaguer does not help get into pro ball. It doesn't hurt, though. At the very least, having the name gets you scouted -- in itself a privilege -- then your talent can dictate your fate.

Perhaps the rebuke should be that a former Major League father doesn't help you make it in the pros. We've seen many sons fail, like those of Pete Rose and Roberto Clemente and Manny Mota.

We've also seen many shine brighter than star fathers. Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Hundley, to name a few.

It is a unique rite of pass-the-baton, something to which most people cannot even relate. From the outside looking in, the view is of pressure and of the burden of living up to a name.

"But I never thought of it like that," says Bret Boone, second baseman of Seattle and son of Bob. "I had my own deal. My dad did what he did, but he had nothing to do with my career.

"He was very supportive, but he never pushed me into it. I think he was glad I chose baseball. It was out there for me, and I happened to like it."

And be very good at it. Bret Boone was third in the AL MVP Award voting in 2001 after hitting .331 with 37 homers and 141 RBIs. Bob, who has the Reds atop the NL Central, never finished in the top 10 in an MVP vote, never hit higher than .295, or hit more than 12 homers or drove in more than 66 runs.

Still, Bob Boone was a revered iron man who caught the last of his 2,225 games only two years before Bret broke into the bigs. Meaning, he still cast a long shadow.

"I thought it was easy to shrug it off," Bret Boone says. "Some don't. They let it be a distraction. If you let it, it can affect you, sure."

In the pros, and even more later in the Majors, the spotlight intensifies. But these young men have grown up in the beam.

"I got over that when I was in Little League," says Prince Fielder, the Brewers' top pick and No. 7 in the nation, "because I always tried to hit home runs and all that.

"But my mom just told me to be myself and I'm pretty much over that now."

Fielder, a first baseman as was his dad, was as stunned as most bystanders to go in the draft as high as he did. "It's a great day for me," he'd said Tuesday afternoon. "It's a dream come true to be drafted in the top 10."

Prince personally boosted his standing last weekend with a display which, yes, raised echoes of papa Cecil. During a scrimmage among top prospects, he smoked a ball out of Milwaukee's Miller Park. Dad? Only guy to ever hit a ball totally out of County Stadium, Miller's forerunner.

"I've been around pro ball since I was six," said Nick Swisher, Oakland's first pick at No. 16. "For me, to share this with my father ... we're just so ecstatic."

Steve Swisher, who caught 481 games for three teams between 1974 and 1982, was taken No. 21 in 1973's first round by the White Sox.

Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota says of Nick, a first baseman: "He's got great instincts in his whole game, and he's got great bloodlines."

The selection of John Mayberry, by Seattle at No. 28, was a nostalgic experience for Mariners general manager Pat Gillick, who first called out that name 35 years ago when he was in the scouting department of the Houston Astros. Papa Mayberry went as the overall No. 6 pick in the 1967 draft.

"I didn't know about that until my dad just told me," Little John said. "I guess it's quite an honor to be drafted by the same guy who drafted your dad. Pretty neat."

The coincidence fortified John's image of his dad a ballplayer. He was born the year after Mayberry played in the last of his 1,620 games.

"I didn't have the opportunity to see him as a player, but I was around him when he was a coach and that's where I got to see the baseball side of life," Mayberry said. "He has been very helpful with my development. We would work out on almost a daily basis. He's been my instructor, my psychological buoy. He has been everything to me."

A view of the draft's other sons (in order selected), and a review of their fathers:

Kris Harvey, HS catcher from North Carolina, 5th round by Atlanta. Top attribute: Live arm, which he also uses on the mound. (Bryan, relief pitcher 1987-1995. Top achievement: 101 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings with 1991 Angels.)

Scott Robinson, HS outfielder out of California, 7th round by Houston. Top attribute: Ambidexterity. (Bruce, catcher 1978-80. Top achievement: Appeared in a total of 38 games with A's and Yankees.)

Chris Barlow, RHP out of Le Moyne College of New York, 9th round by Montreal. Top attribute: Late-sinking two-seamer. (Mike, relief pitcher 1975-81. Top achievement: 4-2 record with a save for 1977 Angels.)

Matt Lemanczyk, OF, Sacred Heart (NY) University, 10th round by St. Louis. (Dave, pitcher 1973-80. Top achievement: 13 wins while toiling 252 innings for 1977 Blue Jays.)

Jason Reuss, OF, University of Nevada, 11th round by Houston. Top attribute: Power to all fields, generated by 6-foot-5, 205 frame. (Jerry, pitcher 1969-90. Top achievement: Four-decade starter who won 220 games.)

Brandon Fahey, SS, University of Texas, 12th round by Baltimore. Top attribute: Perfect lanky shortstop build at 6-foot-1, 170. (Bill, catcher 1971-1983. Top achievement: Struck out only once every 10 career at-bats.)

Jose E. Cruz, SS, Rice University, 13th round by Cincinnati. Top attribute: Brother Jose L. certainly has lived up to family name. (Jose, Sr., outfielder 1970-88. Top achievement: 2,251 hits and cracked a thou in both runs and RBIs.)

Justin Hancock, 3B, Florida Southern College, 15th round by Anaheim. (Garry, pitcher 1984. Top achievement: Appeared in one game with A's and retired all four men he faced.)

Brad Hassey, SS, University of Arizona, 19th round by Toronto. (Ron, catcher-first base 1978-1991. Top achievement: .296-13-42 with 1985 Yankees.)

Andrew LaRoche, SS, Grayson County (Kansas) College, 21st round by San Diego. Top attribute: Maturity; early high-school grad who, at 19, already played three years of college ball. (Dave, relief pitcher 1970-83. Top achievement: 10 wins and 25 saves with 1978 Angels.)

Bryan Tracy, high-school pitcher out of California, 21st round by Los Angeles. Top attribute: Loose arm, fluid delivery. (Jim, outfielder 1980-81. Top achievement: First man off the bench for 1981 Cubs.)

Michael Knox, HS right-hander out of Texas, in 27th round by New York Yankees. (John, infielder 1972-75. Top achievement: A pioneer of DHing; did so twice for the 1974 Tigers.)

Tim Dillard, C, Itawamba (Miss) City College, 34th round by Milwaukee. Steve, infielder 1975-82. Top achievement: 27 RBIs, 31 runs with 1980 Cubs.)

Shawn Williams, HS outfielder out of Florida, in 35th round by Houston. (Jimy, infielder 1966-67. Top achievement: Struck out 6 of 13 career at-bats.)

Greg Bochy, RHP, Cal Poly State (Calif.) University, 36th round by San Diego. (Bruce, catcher 1978-80. Managed 6 RBIs in a total of 151 at-bats with 1979-80 Astros.)

Jonathan Riggleman, 3B, Hillsborough (Fla.) City College, 37th round by Los Angeles. (Jim, manager 1992-94. Top achievement: Lost 101 games with 1993 Padres.)

Kirk Gross, HS right-hander out of California, 37th round by Arizona. (Kevin, pitcher 1983-1997. Top achievement: 7 times won in double figures, with high of 15 with 185 Phillies.)

Toby Gardenhire, SS, Westark (Ark.) City College, 38th round by Minnesota. (Ron, infielder 1981-85. Top achievement: Successful on 6 of 7 steal attempts with 1984 Mets.)

Daron Roberts, C, Consumnes River (Oregon) City College, 41st round by Tampa Bay. (Dave, pitcher 1961-81. Top achievement: 103 wins with 8 teams.)

Ryan Werner, C, San Diego City College, 41st round by San Diego. (Don, catcher 1975-82. Top achievement: 2 homers in 23 at-bats with 1977 Reds, and none in a total of 256 at-bats in his other seasons.)

Brian Bannister, RHP, University of Southern California, 45th round by Boston. Top attribute: Tough competitor. (Floyd, pitcher 1977-92. Top achievement: Averaged 10-plus win 1979-1988.)

Robert Gibson, HS outfielder out of Nebraska, 47th round by St. Louis. (Bob, pitcher 1959-75. Top achievement: Hall of Fame. And having an 18-year-old son at 67.)

Andrew Butera, HS catcher out of Florida, 48th round by Toronto. (Sal, catcher 1980-88. Top achievement: 0.00 ERA for two pitching appearances.)

Anthony Manuel, 2B, Kishwaukee (Illinois) College, 48th round by Chicago White Sox. (Jerry, infielder 1975-82. Top achievement: 127 at-bats in 5 big-league seasons.)

Kyle Reynolds, HS shortstop out of Texas, 50th round by Arizona. (Craig, infielder 1975-89. Top achievement: Three times led NL in sacrifice bunts.

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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