There’s a wave of talent on the rise into the major leagues, one made up of players who have something in common: Their dads all got there first. And with that in mind on Father’s Day, we spoke to some of them about the impact of having a big league dad and how it helped them get to where they are today.
Some of the names should already be familiar, from this year’s box scores as well as prospect rankings:
The Toronto Blue Jays take pride of place with their trio of “Juniors”: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio, sons of Hall of Famers Vladimir Guerrero and Craig Biggio who made their big league debuts this spring, as well as Bo Bichette, the son of slugger Dante Bichette who is still on his way up from the minor leagues. The San Diego Padres surprised many by adding MLB’s No. 1 prospect on Keith Law’s top prospect list, Fernando Tatis Jr., to their Opening Day roster; his dad had an 11-year career split between five different teams. And not far from the majors, the Pittsburgh Pirates have Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of longtime big league third baseman Charlie Hayes, and the Detroit Tigers have Daz Cameron, son of Mike Cameron, a 17-year major leaguer and longtime center fielder.
We spoke with all six to get their thoughts about the benefits and challenges of following in the footsteps of their fathers.
How has having a former MLB player for a dad helped you be the player you are today?
Cameron: It’s definitely an advantage, because you know how the atmosphere of the clubhouse works. You know how to be a big leaguer every day. You know how to go about the day, the routine, because growing up you see it. You see these guys going through it and they’re getting their work in. They’re doing different things, whether it be looking at swings. Just being themselves around the clubhouse. You know the vibe that goes around.
Guerrero: It was an advantage for me because it taught me early on how to be a professional and how to behave in a major league clubhouse. I learned by watching, by being around it. I already knew what to do. It also taught me about how much hard work you have to put in the offseason. You have to work very hard to prepare for when the regular season comes.
Hayes: It definitely benefited me. Just how much knowledge my dad was able to give to me from the time I started playing [on] my first travel ball team, just how much ahead I was because of stuff he taught me when I first started playing.
Tatis: I have always said that I am here today because of my father. Look where I am now, at such an early age, and it’s because of my dad. I had the advantage of being on the field since I was young, since I was a little kid. I grew up around baseball and got to see what it’s all about, how things worked. It has always been an advantage for me to grow up in the game of baseball, and it led me to where I am today.
What’s the best lesson you’ve gotten from you father?
Biggio: I think the overall thing has been to respect the game. That can expand to so many different things, like being humble, running out a ground ball, running out a lazy fly ball. He taught me that at a very young age. and I think I’ve run everything out my whole life except one ball in high school — he yelled at me. I deserved it, for sure.
Cameron: You got to keep it simple in this game. When it all comes down to it, it’s all mental. This game is hard. You got a little round ball and a solid barrel. It’s a hard sport. Just going out there and being in the moment, going out there and being able to execute in the moment. It’s hard. It’s tough. It’s all mental. And also, that you don’t take any moment on the field for granted. Take everything in and make the best of it. Enjoy the ride. My dad always told me enjoy the ride, good or bad. Enjoy the ride.
Guerrero: To stay humble and respect everything and everyone; it’s all about humility and hard work. Respect the game. Respect your teammates. Respect everyone. Because my father, being Vladimir Guerrero, I saw that the way he behaved, and he was exactly the same guy with everyone. And that taught me humility. I learned to be humble from my family, not just from my dad, from my entire family.
Tatis: My dad has helped me in so many ways, on the day-to-day stuff, all the adjustments, so many little things. But one thing he told me, after I was going to make my major league debut at 20, was that, ‘Now you are here because of how you have handled yourself and how you have played.’ And he also told me to always keep being the same person and not change. And to shine with my own light.
“Not too many people can say their dads played in the major leagues — I embrace that. I am thankful for it because it made my life a lot easier growing up.” Ke’Bryan Hayes
Do you feel the weight of expectations, or that there was a target on your back, because you’re following in your dad’s footsteps?
Bichette: Not at all. Everything that my dad has brought into my life like having his name has been positive for me. I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have. I wouldn’t have had the start that I had in my career, like knowing things that people learn in their third year of pro ball. The way that he pushed me too, I wouldn’t be the player I am right now. Obviously, there was a target on my back growing up, but I think that the positive outweighs the negative by a lot.
Biggio: When I was growing up, guys just wanted to get out Craig Biggio’s son or beat the team that he was on. But I don’t see it as a target anymore. Even growing up in Houston, my dad playing and playing travel ball, I think that was the biggest time where I felt I had a target in my back. Once I got into high school, kind of finding my own way, I took the target off. Now I’ve made it to the big leagues and people see me as my own ballplayer.
Hayes: At times I forget that my dad played; I just called him Dad. I kind of embraced it. I loved playing against the best competition. I just always wanted to play against the best teams, and anytime we were playing someone, they would be throwing their best pitcher and they were going to be playing their hardest. Not too many people can say their dads played in the major leagues — I embrace that. I am thankful for it because it made my life a lot easier growing up. He was fortunate to have money for me to go to showcases and get exposure and things like that. I would be the first one to tell you I was spoiled the way I grew up. I always had clean sneakers. Always had food on the table. So I am very thankful for that. Every time we have the national anthem, I think about that type of stuff, growing up.
Cameron: I think when your dad is a major leaguer and plays in the league for as long as he did, of course you’re going to have that target right away because of that name. For me, the pressure is going to be there because of that name. But to just go out there and be myself has been an escape for me. When I first got to pro ball, it was tough because I am trying to do something I am not — trying to do too much, be a superhero. You’re not going to be perfect. I just go out there trying to be the best in the world — and doing that for yourself.
Guerrero: No, why? Why should I feel pressure for any expectations? I am just here to work hard. If things go well, they turn out well. If they go wrong, they go wrong. If you put pressure on yourself, you will never accomplish what you want to accomplish. The only reason I am up here is to work hard. I can’t focus on the results or the expectations. I am focused on doing my job.
Tatis: Yes, yes, yes, that did happen. [That is, having a target painted on his back.] The competition was always good, because “there is Fernando Tatis’ son.” That was great in the Dominican Republic, where I grew up playing ball; it made for really good competition. But I have never felt pressure. I have always been grateful to God for the father he gave me, for the family he gave me. I always say to my dad, I am perfectly happy under your wing. I follow in his footsteps, I have his same discipline. But I have never relied on saying that my dad did this, that my dad did that. I have had to work very hard to earn the things I have earned so far.
How are you different or similar to your dad as a player, and what would your dad have to say about it?
Bichette: People forget that when my dad broke into the big leagues, he was a five-tool player. He had a really good arm, he could run, he was a center fielder, he had power and he could hit and everything. Then later in his career, he wasn’t as good out on the field. So a lot of people kind of gave me that reputation, just because of what he was. We’re very similar, when he was young. We kind of do everything the same. What he tells me is the ability to hit with two strikes is the most similar thing that we have, letting the ball get deep and hitting pitches the other way, stuff like that. That is something he really did well and I’ve carried on. He always tells me that I can be the best player in the world. He always tells me I am way better than he was.
Cameron: He always tells me that I am ahead of him, at the age I am at. Just mentally and just knowing my game a little bit more. He did everything on the field, and I kind of do everything on the field too. But in my mind and in my heart, I believe I am going to be a better player than my dad, just because I know what I can do day in and day out. I am going to forever believe that as long as I am playing.
Guerrero: I think we’re different. He was a little slimmer, and in that sense, he had a better physique than I do. He had a naturally athletic physique. When it comes to my body, I have to work hard to be in shape. He didn’t; he was born and raised with that body. That’s the only thing in which we are different. And in the sense of playing baseball, he already had more experience than I do when he debuted. He already knew what he had to do.
Hayes: He says I am way better than he was at his age. So that gets me kind of excited. My mom says I do everything [the same], all my mannerisms are just like his. I posted a picture on Instagram and my older brother Junior put “Charlie Hayes III” and my other brother put “Charlie Hayes.” I tell my dad all the time, “I am going to be better than you,” and he’s like, “I hope you are.”
Did you feel pressure to play baseball because of who your dad is?
“If I am someone today, it’s because of what my dad taught me; that’s why I’m a Junior.” Fernado Tatis Jr.
Bichette: No, he wanted me to play tennis. What he doesn’t like — you see it a lot going on in baseball, right — he doesn’t like the whole, “You can be one of the best 25 players.” And it’s not about that, it’s about something else, so it’s not up to you. When I was growing up, I was a pretty good tennis player. I played tournaments up until I was 13, high-level tournaments. I didn’t play a lot, just every once in a while; I was pretty good at it. Every tennis pro was always like, “Come on, you got to play tennis.” My dad said, “You win in tennis, you win. There’s not somebody saying you’re not ready. If you win, you win.” And baseball is not like that. So that is what he doesn’t like about baseball.
Guerrero: My dad never pushed me. My dad used to take me to the stadium all the time; and in Montreal, they allowed me to stay in the dugout, and I saw everything my dad did. That’s where my love for baseball began. I was always the one who wanted to be a baseball player.
Hayes: I played everything growing up — baseball, basketball, football. He always told me growing up, “If you don’t play baseball, I am fine with that. Find something to do.” Baseball was just what I loved the most.
Tatis: I never felt any pressure. It was my choice. And if I am someone today, it’s because of what my dad taught me; that’s why I’m a Junior. I am so excited to put my jersey on every day, and I am excited to put my dad’s name on a higher pedestal than it already is.
Was your dad your first coach? What was his impact on you as a young ballplayer?
Biggio: In the offseason, we really didn’t talk about baseball, because I played football and my dad was a really good football player in high school, so we pretty much talked about football. After he retired, he was my high school baseball coach for four years, and it went from zero to 100. It was weird at first, but he was great with everybody on the team — he treated everybody as if they were his son. We had a pretty good team; we won two state championships when I was there. Where, with a different coach you’d be doing drills and all these things, a lot of hands-on stuff, he was really hands-off and really professional. It allowed for a lot of the guys on the team to have their own personalities and have more fun. I think he got the most out of his players. I would say not just me, but a bunch of guys who ended up going to college or got drafted out of high school. He was a big influence on a lot of us.
Cameron: He just let me go out there and do my thing. I would say he was a mentor and a coach. He wasn’t tough, just because he was around the game. He’s kind of been there and done it, so he doesn’t get frustrated. It was always a process. It’s about the moments, and try to accomplish something in the moment and just try to be simple.
Guerrero: I only worked with my dad in the offseason, when he came back to the Dominican Republic. My uncle Wilton saw how much I liked to play baseball, so when I got a little older, I started working out and going to practice with my older cousin and with him. I started hitting and practicing regularly at 7, 8 years old. All the things my cousin did — he was like five years older than me — I had to do too. That’s how it all began. Then in the offseason, we’d go hit with my dad and my uncle. Nowadays, my dad, he calls me after games and leaves me messages. My uncle too. They still keep tabs on what I am doing.
Hayes: He was my coach probably around the age of 8, because he had opened a baseball facility with teams. As long as I showed that I wanted to do it, he would always give me tips and tell me I am not doing it right. He is like, “If you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it right.” He wasn’t really tough. Actually, the funny thing is my mom was more tough on me than my dad. Like, if I’d be in the outfield, she’d be sitting behind the fence [saying], “You better not let the ball drop.”
Tatis: During the offseason, and during off days in the regular season, every day off, my dad would take me to the park, to play, to have fun, to play ball. It was always about the basics. It was always about doing what I liked to. He never forced me. But my dad has always been very strict. He likes when things are done well. He always likes for you to do things right, and I learned that, to put in all that effort and discipline — that’s all from him.
On how being a public figure is different in the social media age than it was during their dads’ day
Biggio: Just growing up, like when they just had Facebook, my mom and my dad always got really big on, like, “You represent more than yourself, you’re representing the whole family,” and my dad’s name. I am just not representing myself. I am representing my dad, still, my siblings, my mother and the rest of my family. So whatever I do, affects all of them.
Guerrero: What I like about social media is that I have more direct contact with the fans than existed before, when my dad played. I really like interacting with the fans. Of course, there will always be someone who says negative things about you, but I don’t pay any attention; that does not bother me. But you always have to be careful and represent yourself well.
Hayes: My parents just raised me to always do the right thing and say the right thing. One thing they always taught me is there is always someone watching, especially in this day in age. There is always a camera on you.
Tatis: You do have to be careful, because there are eyes on you 24/7. You have to think twice what you are going to do, even if there is nothing wrong with it, because you have to worry about how it will be perceived by people, because there are so many different cultures, upbringings, religions, etc. And you have to respect everyone. I have been a public figure since I was young, and you have to live up to your last name and represent your last name well. And it is my job to keep it on the same level or even take it to a higher level, if possible.
On being part of a generational wave of sons of MLB players reaching The Show
Guerrero: When we [Bichette, Biggio and Guerrero] got together in Dunedin [in the minors] two years ago, and the whole “three sons of former major leaguers” storyline really started to come out, it was exciting to think about. And I believe that one day it will. But we never really talked about that. Bo will tell you and Cavan will tell you, we don’t talk much about our parents. We’re like brothers. We talk about ourselves, what we can do, what we can accomplish, what we have to work on. What our parents did is already done. Now it’s our turn to do our part.
Bichette: I think they’d agree with me that when we’re on the field, we don’t look at each other like anything is different. I don’t look at the lineup and see me hitting second, Vladdy hitting third and Cavan hitting fourth and be like, oh, man, Bichette, Guerrero, Biggio. It’s just normal to me. I think they would agree with that. We’re really excited about what we can do, the possibilities of what we can accomplish; but the names don’t really mess with us too much. We definitely know that. We definitely know what’s going on, what people are saying about it. But I don’t think internally, in our own thoughts, we’re very wowed by what we are doing.
Hayes: It’s pretty neat. I’ve gotten to play against or with all those guys. I played against Biggio in high school; I used to pitch against him. His dad was coaching the school at that time. I’ve gotten to play against Bo and Guerrero the last few years and played against Tatis Jr. in the [All-Star] Futures Game. It’s pretty special that a lot of our dads that played, we’re getting to follow in their footsteps and play against each other. It’s pretty awesome.
Cameron: It’s definitely cool to see. I know Ke’Bryan personally; we played on the USA team together. I played with him for a minute there, and he’s a good person. He likes to have fun; he doesn’t try to take it too serious. It’s always good to see guys that your dad played with and to see the kids and to be able to play with them, to be able to get that same opportunity they did to play against each other and with each other.