Father's Day special for Royals
Father-son big-league connections strong in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY -- Octavio Dotel walked into clubhouse before Sunday's game and said to the team and assembled media: "Happy Father's Day, everyone!"
The players and media, especially those with children, thanked Dotel. Father's Day, especially for the Royals, is an important time.
"It's a special day for all of us," Buddy Bell, Royals manager and father of five, said.
But for two Kansas City coaches and two Royals players, Father's Day holds a slightly different meaning. The quartet is part of baseball lineage, either first- or second-generation men in the game.
Bell is part of one of baseball's two three-generation families. Along with the Boones, the Bells have been in baseball for more than 50 years.
"The only time we think about us being involved in baseball is when somebody really asks," Bell said. "We certainly don't take it for granted, but at the same time, there are a lot of other things and families that are much more important than this -- even though this is pretty important."
Buddy's father, Gus Bell, was a long-time Major Leaguer. Buddy played 18 years in the Major Leagues, and Buddy's son, David, is a 12-year big-league veteran.
"When I was growing up, I figured every dad was a ballplayer," Bell said. "It really wasn't that big of a deal for me. I just enjoyed playing. He was just like any other dad, and gave me direction. All of the guys that I have ever been around that have been around the game, they can put it in perspective quicker.
"I think that is the biggest advantage -- you are able to put it into perspective, and once you do that, I think you are ahead of the game."
Brian Bannister, Sunday's starter, also had a baseball-playing father in 15-year veteran Floyd Bannister. Brian remembers traveling the country with his mother and two brothers to see his dad pitch at various ballparks.
In 1988-89, the elder Bannister pitched for the Royals. Brian remembers trying to keep up with his father on his runs and helping him with workouts.
"He would go out on his flush runs, his distance runs, the day after he pitched," Brian said. "I would be on my little bike and he would be running, and I would tag along behind him. I would just try to keep up with him, but he would run faster than I could bike. He would be doing medicine-ball sit-ups, and I would stand on his feet and I would throw it back. I remember it being so heavy at the time."
It was those runs and in those workouts that Brian started to mold himself into a replica of his dad -- a person who works hard, one who never strays too far on the emotional spectrum and one who remains calm.
"It was really just his work ethic," Brian said. "I remember him working hard. The thing that I always appreciated with him was whether he won or lost that night, he would come home and he was just dad. I never ever remember him taking the game back home with him -- sad, frustrated or just being totally excited. He was just always so even keel, and that was one thing I always appreciated."
During the 1990 season, Bannister lived in Japan for a year when his dad pitched for the Yakult Swallows.
"It was a lot of fun," Bannister said. "I had just turned 10 years old and had my first case of chicken pox over there. That wasn't fun. We couldn't find a doctor that could speak [English, but] I have a lot of memories over there."
In 1992, Floyd played for Bobby Valentine in Texas, and the manager, in a rare occurrence, permitted each family to pick a few trips to travel with the team on its charter.
"We got to go to about six different cities, and it was a lot of fun," Brian said. "I was 12 years old, and I still remember it pretty vividly."
Tony Pena Jr.'s father, Tony Pena Sr. played Major League baseball for nearly two decades, managed the Royals and now is a coach with the Yankees. As youngsters, Pena Jr. and his brother, Fernando, a Minor League catcher in the Mets organization, would travel the country with their father.
Tony Jr. never played organized baseball before signing his first professional contract. Instead, he honed his shortstop skills taking lessons from All-Stars Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel.
He also learned some valuable lessons; lessons that he still carries today.
"Just to have fun," Pena said. "[My father] always had that smile when he was playing the game. He was going out there and playing it 100 percent."
The two still talk on the phone every day, discussing baseball and their lives.
"We talk about everything," Pena said. "[We] definitely talk about me more. He has kind of been my psychologist. He just tells me to go out and not think about a lot of what is going on. That's the No. 1 thing -- just to keep it simple."
Bullpen coach Fred Kendall's son also is a Major Leaguer. Kendall, a catcher for 12 years, has seen his son, Jason, rise to All-Star status as a backstop with the Pirates and Athletics.
Fred, whose son, Mike, is a scout for the Giants, never pressured either of his sons into becoming a catcher.
"I said that if they want to play baseball, they should play every position and find out which one they like best," Kendall said.
Jason played shortstop and pitched during Little League. One time, Fred was coaching an American Legion team when its catcher suffered an injury. The team had no backup option, except for Jason, a middle school kid at the time who liked to warm up the pitchers in the bullpen.
"I said my son could catch," Kendall said. "I would sign a release form just to have a way that we could get through the game."
Jason had to catch a pitcher who could throw in the low-90s and had been drafted in the first five rounds earlier that summer. He didn't have any problems, throwing out several runners and collecting a couple of hits.
He said: "'Dad, I think I have found a position,'" Fred said. "He got bored playing all the other positions. That was the last position I really wanted him to play."
In high school, Kendall played shortstop, but then he moved to catcher permanently when the only open position was behind the plate. Jason thrived, setting a Southern California record with a 43-game hitting streak. Jason played with the same fire his dad played with, the same fire he still carries with him to Major League parks.
"A couple things that stuck in my mind that I passed on to him: Play every game like it is your last and respect the game, and the game will take care of itself," Fred said.
The duo has met twice this season, in two early season series at McAfee Coliseum and Kauffman Stadium.
"It's business on the field, but we are family," Fred said. "The best scenario is he gets four hits and we win the game. That happened one time when we played Pittsburgh. He went 4-for-4 and we won the game."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.