Nowadays, there is hardly a baseball game played, college or professional, in which there isn’t at least one player who had a family relative that also played the sport at a professional level. Over the years, baseball has had a long tradition of being a game of fathers, son, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, and even in-laws. And it seems to be a growing trend. For example, now we are seeing more instances of a third generation of families taking their cuts at professional baseball.
Major league organizations usually view a prospect that has family ties in baseball as a plus, since they bring a background to the sport that has been influenced by a relative who’s already been through the pro ranks. That usually translates to the prospect being able to better cope with the ups and downs of playing the sport, often reflected by demonstrating more maturity and professionalism on the job than other players. Consequently, having a relative in pro baseball is one of the factors major league scouts look for in player selection.
The local Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs are certainly no exception to the prevalence of family ties. In a recent game against their Pacific Coast League opponent Colorado Springs, the Zephyrs featured five members of its team with relatives in pro baseball, while the Sky Sox had six players in that elite category.
For the Zephyrs outfielder Isaac Galloway, it was a family goal to reach the big leagues. His father, Isaac III, played two seasons of pro baseball in the Phillies organization, while his grandfather, Isaac Jr., played eight seasons in the Orioles organization. Neither was able to reach the major-league level. In an interview in TCPalm.com three years ago, the youngest Galloway recalled how he would go out to hit and throw a baseball after his father came home from work each day. He wanted to be a professional baseball player from an early age. “It’s just something I always knew I would do.”
Injuries slowed Isaac’s progression through the minors after being an eighth-round pick in the draft by the Marlins organization. He is currently in his ninth season of professional baseball, having not yet attained a big league roster spot. Still only 26 years old, Galloway still has a decent chance of getting there.
Austin Nola is in his second season with the Zephyrs. He is three years older than his brother Aaron Nola, who is currently a pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies. Austin showed his little brother the ropes of the game through high school and college, how to carry himself and how to deal with the highs and lows of the game. However, due to their age difference, they had been teammates only once, at LSU, when Aaron was a freshman and Austin was a senior. Aaron was then often referred to as “Austin’s little brother.”
With Aaron breaking into the majors before Austin last year, Austin is now referred to as “Aaron’s big brother.” In any case, their goal is now to face each other in the majors. A dream matchup is in the making, as Austin pursues a spot on the Marlins’ big league roster.
Jarred Cosart is in his third season with the Marlins organization, after spending parts of two seasons with the Houston Astros. The pitcher had a brief call-up with the Marlins earlier this season. Cosart comes from an athletic family.
He is the grandson of former major leaguer Ed Donnelly who had nine appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 1959. Cosart’s mother and aunt played softball at high school and college levels. His brother Jake is a pitching prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization.
Don Kelly is in his second season in the Marlins organization, after spending six seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He’s been a valuable utility infielder with the Zephyrs this season. His baseball relationship came through marriage, when he wed the daughter of former Pittsburgh Pirates major-leaguer Tom Walker, who also has a son, Neil, currently the second baseman with the New York Mets. Kelly met Neil’s sister, Carrie, when she and Kelly’s sister played against each other in college basketball.
Kelly and Neil Walker once played on the same minor-league team in 2007 when they were both in the Pirates organization. On occasion they have opposed each other as major-leaguers. Walker’s baseball lineage also extends to his brother and uncle who were professional ballplayers.
However, a baseball player’s connection to professional sports is not always through a relative that played the game. For the Zephyrs’ Dylan Axelrod, his family ties include his uncle Barry Axelrod, a professional sports agent representing several high-profile major-leaguers. Dylan has been in the starting rotation for the Zephyrs this season, after pitching five seasons in the major-leagues with the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds.
Baseball continues its rich history of family ties, and it appears the Zephyrs are doing their part to extend it.
By the way, on the day Colorado Springs played the Zephyrs, the Sky Sox roster included the following players with relatives in professional baseball: Eric Young Jr., Garin Cecchini, Tim Dillard, Brent Suter, Orlando Arcia, and Michael Reed.