When Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger attempts to become MLB’s newest home run king on Monday night, he’ll have a familiar face tossing him batting practice: His father, Clay.
We’ve seen other father-son duos have success at the home run derby–Robinson and Jose Cano, Bryce and Ron Harper–and there’s reason to believe the Bellingers could continue that trend. Cody has been assaulting stadium seats since his MLB debut in April, while dad, who says he throws batting practice every other day, has a good deal of MLB experience.
Here’s everything you need to know about the dad of one of the game’s brightest young sluggers:
1. He Was Drafted by the Giants in 1989
A native of Oneonta, New York, Bellinger played shortstop for Rollins College (Winter Park, Florida) and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants with the 44th overall pick in the 1989 draft.
From there, it was a long road to The Show. Bellinger’s first 10 seasons of professional baseball were spent in the minor leagues–and six of those were in Triple-A. Before his first call-up as a 30-year-old in 1999, he played more than 1,000 minor league games.
2. He Has 3 World Series Rings
From an individual perspective, Bellinger’s major league career was nothing special. He had a total of 344 plate appearances, slashing .193/.257/.363 with 12 home runs, 11 doubles and 35 RBI. But from a team perspective, he was nothing if not efficient.
Bellinger’s first three major league season were with the New York Yankees, and in those seasons, the Yanks won two World Series (1999, 2000) and lost in the Fall Classic in the third (2001). He had just one plate appearance in the 1999 postseason, but in 2000 he had a crucial moment when he robbed Todd Zeile of a home run in Game 2 of the World Series.
In 2002, Bellinger played two games with the Anaheim Angels, the team that went on to win the World Series.
3. He Has 3 Children
Cody has quickly become a household name for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Clay also has another son with aspirations of getting to the NL West. Cole Bellinger, who is four years younger than Cody, was drafted by the San Diego Padres out of high school in the 15th round of the 2017 draft.
Cody is a standout pitcher, creating some intriguing potential scenarios down the line.
“If everything goes right and someday I sign and make it to the big leagues and get to pitch to my brother, that would be the coolest experience of my life,” said Cole, who was originally committed to Grand Canyon University.
Bellinger and his wife, Jen, also have a daughter, Ashli, who played volleyball for Vanguard University.
4. He Coached Cody Through High School
Not only will there be the father-son familiarity between Clay and Cody, but there will be a coach-player relationship. Clay coached Cody up until high school, which includes the 2007 Little League World Series, when the duo helped their Chandler, Arizona, team advance to the US Semifinals.
“I coached him all the way up to high school and his club-ball teams,” says Clay. “He didn’t really have anybody else to work on his swing, so it was always him and me in the cage. The only time I let him go was after high school when he started playing for other people.”
5. He’s a Firefighter
Bellinger, now 48, works as a firefighter in Gilbert, Arizona. He explains how he got into the profession:
After I retired in 2004, a couple of guys I knew from baseball started testing [for the fire department], and I did a couple of ride-alongs with them. It’s a really fulfilling job, where you’re not sitting behind a desk 9-to-5. You’re out in the community helping people. No suit and tie. Every day is different.
We’re a pretty safe organization the way we do stuff out West. You run across your bad medical calls and bad car accidents, but we don’t have a whole lot of fire in Gilbert where I work. It’s a newer town, which helps out. Hopefully I don’t ever get in one of those situations where it’s life or death staring you in the eye.
Cody’s only stipulation for participating in the home run derby was that his father had to be there to pitch. As such, Clay’s fellow firefighters stepped up to cover his shift.
“It was a no-brainer, some of us have lost children in our lives and the guys were there for us, they support because family is so important to us,” said firefighter/EMT Ben Ruiz.
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