Blessing or burden?
When outfielder Dustin Yount joined Chattanooga's roster last weekend, replacing the suspended Andrew Lambo, it gave the Lookouts three players whose fathers had lengthy and successful major-league careers. Robin Yount, Andy Van Slyke and Tom "Flash" Gordon each earned three All-Star Game invitations, and now their sons are trying to find their niche in the sport.
"It's been good," Lookouts shortstop Dee Gordon said. "It doesn't bother me that I'm the son of a major leaguer. If my dad was a trash man, I would still play as hard as I can. It's not a burden to me at all."
Yount said he's not playing to live up to anything his Hall of Fame father accomplished during his 20-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers, but fellow outfielder Scott Van Slyke admits to feeling "more pressure than your average guy."
Having three legacies is nothing new for Lookouts manager Carlos Subero. Last season at Inland Empire in the high Single-A California League, Subero had a stretch in which he guided Van Slyke, Preston Mattingly (son of former New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly) and Chris Gibson (son of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson).
"It's a unique situation," Subero said. "It happens, and they all just bring such a knowledge of the game. It has an effect that I think is beneficial for the ball club."
The Lookouts' Gordon, Van Slyke and Yount were raised in clubhouses and ballparks, where they assembled a lot of memories.
Van Slyke's favorite perk was getting to play in a whiffle ball game at the Baltimore hotel where his dad and other players were staying before the 1993 All-Star Game. He had yet to turn 7 years old but got to compete with Ken Griffey Jr.
A 16-year-old Gordon got to shag fly balls during the Home Run Derby at the 2004 All-Star Game in Houston, where he also met Muhammad Ali. Yount cites his favorite memory as being attendance for his father's 3,000th career hit on Sept. 9, 1992.
"That's all we really knew, so it wasn't like we could say it was different from any other kids," Van Slyke said. "I had a lot of fun in the locker room and hanging around the ballpark. That was just normal life for me."
The three Lookouts talk to their fathers several times a week, and Flash Gordon and Andy Van Slyke already have visited AT&T Field this season. Scott Van Slyke mostly talks to his father about family but said if a hiccup develops in his game, he doesn't hesitate in calling for advice.
Gordon, 22, is rated by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and is off to a productive start with the Lookouts, hitting .305 with a team-leading 29 hits and 17 runs scored. Van Slyke, 23, also has opened quickly this season, hitting .325 with a team-leading 14 RBIs, but it's been a tougher road for the 27-year-old Yount.
Drafted by Baltimore in 2001, he played 54 Double-A games in '06 but spent the past two seasons in Independent ball. His father collected more big-league hits than any player during the 1980s, was voted American League MVP in '82 and '89 and was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 1999.
"It's definitely been a blessing," Yount said. "I've been around a lot of great baseball people. I've learned a lot, and I'm very fortunate to have grown up the way I have. I'm just out there doing the best I can, and whatever happens happens."
Three Chattanooga Lookouts -- shortstop Dee Gordon and outfielders Scott Van Slyke and Dustin Yount -- have prominent baseball fathers:
TOM "FLASH" GORDON
Played 21 seasons in the majors, debuting in 1988 with the Kansas City Royals and finishing last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. ... The only big-league pitcher with 100 career wins, saves and holds was an All-Star pick in 1998 with Boston, in 2004 with the New York Yankees and in 2006 with Philadelphia. ... He set a Red Sox record with 46 saves in '98, and in '99 he set a big-league record with his 54th straight save.
ANDY VAN SLYKE
A career .274 hitter with 164 home runs in 13 big-league seasons, eight of which (1987-94) were with the Pittsburgh Pirates. ... All-Star selection in 1988, '92 and '93, and a winner of five consecutive Golden Gloves (1988-92). ... He played in the 1985 World Series with St. Louis and in three consecutive National League Championship Series with Pittsburgh (1990-92).
The Milwaukee Brewers' all-time leader in hits, runs, doubles, triples, home runs and RBIs. ... He hit .285 for his career with 3,142 hits and 251 homers. ... He was the American League MVP in 1982 and '89, winning it unanimously in '82. ... Milwaukee lost the 1982 World Series to St. Louis in seven games, but Yount became the first player to have two four-hit games in a Series.