Kyle Drabek following in Dad's footsteps
Rookie right-hander is son of Cy Young winner Doug Drabek
Being both a Major League baseball player and the son of one can be a blessing or a curse. Or both. Toronto rookie right-hander Kyle Drabek will have to wait awhile to see where his last name takes him.
His father, Doug Drabek, began pitching for the Pirates in 1987, the year Kyle was born. It was the second of his 13 big league seasons, including six with Pittsburgh and four with Houston.
Kyle was Philadelphia's first-round draft pick in 2006, underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008 and was part of the trade that sent Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays to the Phillies after the 2009 season.
Drabek made his first three Major League starts with the Blue Jays last September and lost all of them, but was a candidate from the opening of Spring Training to make the starting rotation.
Carrying the same last name as a famous big league father gets a young man noticed and opens doors for him. Then again, that surname can carry with it the kind of pressure to perform at least as well as the parent, something the offspring of non-players never have to bear.
Pete Rose Jr.'s big league career lasted 11 games with the 1997 Reds, 3,551 fewer than his father played in 24 seasons. On the other hand, the careers of Cal Ripken Jr., Roberto Alomar and Ken Griffey Jr. far surpassed their fathers'. The first two are in the Hall of Fame and Griffey, who retired last June, is sure to be a first-ballot inductee in 2016.
Doug Drabek didn't have Hall of Fame credentials, but his 22-6 record and 2.76 ERA in 1990 earned him the National League Cy Young Award. "It wasn't until high school," Kyle said, "that I began learning what he'd had to do to get it."
As Kyle began following in his footsteps, Doug told his son that his last name might raise people's expectations.
"We talked, maybe a couple of times, about the pressure he might face," said Doug, pitching coach for the Visalia Rawhide, Arizona's farm team in the Class A California League. "I told him, 'Just go out and be yourself, do what you can do and don't worry about anything else.'"
Being the son of a Major Leaguer means not having a father around for weeks at a time. "That was kind of bad," Kyle said, "but when he got home it was that much better."
When Kyle and Justin, his older brother, were young, their father had the wisdom to avoid trying to teach them too early how to pitch.
"Dad stayed away, really," Kyle said. "He just let us go out there and play and have the coaches of the teams coach us. It wasn't really until high school -- my sophomore, junior and senior years -- when he got into the more serious talk with pitching, different pitches and work that I needed to do.
"If we hadn't wanted to play he wouldn't have cared. I think it was just that watching him when we actually started playing, it was so much fun that we knew that's what we wanted to do."
Justin gave it a shot, but never got beyond playing 2006-08 with Independent League teams. He then shifted his attention to a career in golf.
"I was a lot bigger than Kyle when we were younger," Justin said. "I threw harder than him at the time, but he passed me once high school hit. By then, the only 'big-brother' advice I could give him about baseball was 'Don't mess it up.'"
Bruce Lowitt is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.