By IAN WILSON
Fathers and sons and baseball.
Bret Boone knows a lot about these things. He is the grandson of Major League Baseball (MLB) infielder Ray Boone, the son of catching great Bob Boone and in 1992 he became the first third-generation big league player in history when he was called up from the Calgary Cannons to play with the Seattle Mariners.
At 49 years of age, Bret is a decade removed from his playing days, but as a father he now does what Ray and Bob did before him – he watches his son play baseball.
Shortstop Jake Boone just wrapped up his freshman season at Princeton. We’ll have to wait until 2020, when he’s draft eligible again, to see if he is selected and gets a chance to enter the record books as MLB’s first fourth-generation player.
For now though, Bret is just a proud father.
“He’s just a good kid and a real straight arrow, which as a parent I love,” the former Cannon told Alberta Dugout Stories during a 2017 interview.
“Jake just loves the game, he loves baseball and he’s worked real hard at it. He’s a tremendous shortstop.”
HOUSE OF THE RISING SON
The four-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman is as impressed by his son’s academic abilities as he is by what he can do on the field.
“He’s one of those guys that’s in class and you always look at him and think, ‘how is it that easy for him?’ That’s Jacob. He’s just blessed academically with that brain,” said Bret, whose brother Aaron is now the manager of the New York Yankees.
“I think defensively he’s better than I was. He’s got a better arm than I did. The challenge is going to be hitting at the next level. I think he’s more than capable of handling it but that’s always a challenge.”
Bret said Jake is well aware of the family history but has not yet shown any signs of feeling any pressure from it.
“I think Jake is very proud. He knows where he comes from. He knew his great grandfather. He knows how vast the lineage is,” said the two-time Silver Slugger recipient.
“There’s been so much covered about my family and the generations. Hopefully that won’t be the main point, it’ll be his baseball. It’s just the family you’re born into – that’s part of the deal …. I’m sure Eli or Peyton Manning’s kids are going to be asked about their dad and their brother and their father and that’s just the way it is in anything. That’s just part of the gig. It’s something to be proud of, but it’s not the whole thing. What’s most important is what you can do on the field, and what you do in life.”
GROWING UP BOONE
While Jake gets plenty of attention for playing baseball, Bret is quick to bring up his other children, as well. His daughter, Savannah, recently graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) and is entering the field of sports broadcasting. His twin sons, Judah and Isaiah, are 13 years old and love visiting their uncle at Yankee Stadium.
Bret understands very well what it’s like to grow up in a famous family, but he said he didn’t feel any stress in carrying the Boone name when he was making his way to the majors.
“It didn’t bother me one bit, as far as a pressure standpoint. I didn’t put pressure on myself. It did start to bother me being asked those questions, especially when I got to Triple-A and I’m hitting .325 and we go to another city and the first question is about your grandfather and your father,” said the former All Star, who became known as ‘The Boone’ when he played in Seattle.
“Ask me about why I’m hitting .325. Who cares about that? Of course, I respected the hell out of my dad and my grandfather. I’m very proud, to this day, of what my family’s been able to accomplish in this game but at the time, it was like, ‘I don’t care about third generation.’ That’s not going to give me a big league career. I’ve got to earn it.”
Bret also had to earn it head-to-head against his father.
In 1992, Bob Boone had recently finished his playing career and was the manager of the Pacific Coast League’s Tacoma Tigers. His son was a brash 23-year-old, up-and-comer with the Calgary Cannons.
On May 2nd of that year, the Tigers were playing at Foothills Stadium and Bret and Bob sat in opposing dugouts.
“Once we started the game, I could care less who was in that dugout. There was probably a little more in me that really wanted to kick his butt, but it was very professional. I had a game to play, he had a team to manage, and after the game we got to have dinner when normally we wouldn’t get to have dinner,” said Bret.
“It was cool that he was in the league at the time, because that’s time I got to spend with him.”
A DAD TO LOOK UP TO
The elder Boone remains in the game, working as a vice-president for the Washington Nationals, and Bret still looks up to him.
“My parents were just very supportive of anything I would pursue. There was never that pressure to be a baseball player,” recalled Bret.
“I have a lot of respect for my dad and all the games he caught and the Gold Gloves he won. He had a great career, but it wasn’t about that. It was how he carried himself and how his teammates respected him and how they looked at my father,” he added.
“As a lot of catchers are in this game, he was an unsung hero. He wasn’t a big star with the Phillies. He wasn’t Mike Schmidt. He wasn’t Pete Rose in the middle of the lineup, getting all the highlights, but he was very important to that team and that 1980 World Series team. He was kind of the backbone.”