If you’re a baseball fan in your late twenties (as I am), the events of the past week may be aging you prematurely. Last Wednesday, Ken Griffey, Jr. stopped delaying the inevitable and announced his retirement. Yesterday, the Houston Astros used the eighth overall pick in the draft to select high school outfielder/second baseman Delino DeShields, Jr. The kid managed to get a leg up on his father and namesake, who the Expos drafted twelfth overall in 1987. Good for him. But I don’t know if I’m ready to wrap my head around the reality of watching a second generation of MLB players. Sure, I’ve seen father and son combos like the Raineses, the Fielders, and the Gwynns in my eighteen years of fandom. But by the time I had started following baseball, those dads were already veterans in the second halves of their careers.
In 1993, Delino DeShields (Sr.) was a 24-year-old up-and-comer in his fourth season in the majors. That year, he hit .295 and stole 43 bases (his fourth straight year with 42 or more swipes) despite missing almost 40 games due to injury and illness. He had shown so much in his short career that the Dodgers traded an emerging Pedro Martinez that following offseason to acquire DeShields. That trade was a disaster for L.A., but the Orioles got one decent year (and one and a half subpar ones) out of the fleet second baseman at the tail end of his time in the majors. In 2000, his second season in Baltimore, he reached career highs with a .296 average, 43 doubles, 86 RBI, and an .813 OPS.
…And soon his son will be playing pro baseball. Ye gods. There’s not a Jeffrey Hammonds, Jr. somewhere, is there?