Sometimes it’s all about blood. The first two picks in last week’s MLB draft – Jackson Holliday and Druw Jones – are the sons of former big league stars Matt Holliday and Andruw Jones.
Sometimes it’s not like that. Three major league players in the last 14 years are the sons of former LA Times athletes.
Sons of MLB players who are known for hitting or throwing 90 mph fastballs are no surprise.
The sons of athletes who are good at doing something more athletic than slathering mustard on their shirts while chowing down on hot dogs and typing at the same time is really surprising.
Like father, like son.
In addition to the cases of Dave Morgan and Eli’s son, in his second season as a Cleveland Guardians pitcher; Ross Newhan and son David, who logged eight major league seasons with five teams; and Fernando Dominguez and his son Matt, a first-round pick from Chatsworth High who hit 42 home runs in 362 big league games.
Dave Morgan spent the first 20 years of his career as a Times writer and editor, rising to deputy sports editor before moving on to executive positions at Yahoo Sports, USA Today Sports Media Group, and Bally Sports.
Ross Newhan was a national baseball columnist who covered the Angels and Dodgers for The Times from 1968 to 2004, and was inducted into the Writers’ Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY in 2001.
Fernando Dominguez was a feature writer and copy editor in The Times sports section from 1990 until his retirement in 2020, a Cuban native whose love of baseball made him an editor for Dodgers and Angels stories. in the last time.
Every sportswriter probably dreamed of becoming a professional athlete before they picked up a pen and notepad. Most people don’t dare to imagine that their son will play in the big leagues.
What is the equation? A food writer whose child becomes a Michelin-starred chef? A political writer whose child becomes a member of Congress? A music critic whose child becomes a Grammy-winning singer?
And all with the same publication? Less, less and less.
Dave and Eli Morgan were together at Dodger Stadium on Father’s Day last month, as they have been many times over the years. The difference was that Eli was peeing.
A relief pitcher in his second year with the Rangers, Eli pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers, and his ERA reached 1.62. He led off with one out in the seventh and struck out Gavin Lux and Freddie Freeman. In the eighth he followed a walk to Will Smith and retired three batters in a row. The Defenders took the lead in the top of the ninth and Eli struck out.
It was a surreal experience for father and son.
“He would take me to games growing up, Angels, Dodgers, Lakers games,” Eli said. “He was always a great bond with my father.”
Dave and his wife, Diana, often went to watch Eli play when he attended Gonzaga after graduating from Palos Verdes Peninsula High in 2014. He was an eighth-round pick in 2017 and quickly moved up through the minors.
“They both have so many miles under their belts,” Eli said. “They came to a ton of my college games, a ton of my little league games.”
Eli was aware of his father’s involvement in sports journalism when BusinessWeek named Dave one of the 100 Most Influential People in Sports in 2008.
“He was more behind the scenes as an editor and manager, but it was great for our family to know him,” Ali said. “It meant a lot to us and I’m sure it meant a lot to him.”
All three journalists missed countless chances to see their son play because they were writing or editing stories about other people’s sons.
David Newhan made his debut with the San Diego Padres in 1999, but bounced around several organizations and couldn’t get out of the triple A’s until the Baltimore Orioles called him up on June 18, 2004.
Ross was working at Dodger Stadium that evening watching the Orioles game against the Colorado Rockies on his laptop. David pinch-hit in the ninth and walked home.
For a glorious moment in the career of a Hall of Fame baseball writer, Ross Newhan allowed himself a fun shout out in the press box.
“I could just see the box score,” Ross said. “Here’s the pitch, the ball’s in play and the next thing I see is a HR. I let out a cheer. [Times writer] Bill Shaikin sat next to me and never let me forget it.”
Matt Dominguez was the third baseman for the Houston Astros during the series at Angel Stadium in August 2013. He secured nearly 100 tickets for family and friends, then went on to sell eight of the 14 tickets in three games.
Fernando took time off to participate in the Friday and Saturday games. Sunday’s series finale started at 12:30 p.m., so he pitched six innings before leaving to head to Times Mirror Square in downtown LA to begin his relief shift at 3 p.m.
“I remember turning on the radio in the car before he went home,” Fernando said.
The three-run blast in the seventh inning was Matt’s game-high fourth hit and gave the Astros the lead they didn’t give up.
This was not the first time that Fernando lost a game-winning home run by his son. At the age of 16, Matt played for the US national team in the 2006 world championships. Cuba hosted the tournament and it was played in the same town, Morón, where Fernando grew up.
“It was an amazing feeling to go there and drive the streets where my dad was born and raised,” Matt said. “He had told me that Morón was known for a large statue of a rooster, and there it was!”
Cousins he had never met came to the semi-final game between the USA and Cuba. Fernando and his wife, Cindy, were watching the action online when they lost connection early in the game.
It was a scoreless game until the seventh inning when Matt hit a three-run home run. USA won 4-0. Fernando had to wait until the next day to read Cuban newspaper accounts of the game in Spanish.
“That’s how it’s been for most of his career,” Fernando said. “I’ll be at work, watching his online game with an open tab and swapping stories with someone else.”
Being a ball player at the highest level is not all glitz and glory. Sportswriters deal with the difficult path from youth ball to the big leagues, the inherent failures of the game and the repeated daily routines of even the best players.
Newhan, Dominguez and Morgan experienced everything.
In a Father’s Day column in 2004 a few days after David’s home run against the Rockies, Ross described David’s “baseball odyssey that taught him there are no guarantees and little to rely on except yourself, even when it involves your father’s profession.” “
Injuries cost David two seasons just as he was becoming an established major leaguer. He battled back and became an excellent utility player with the Orioles, Mets and Astros before retiring in 2011 at age 34.
Fernando wrote a column after Matt’s major league debut in 2011, recounting the experience from a parent’s perspective: “That night, I had a hard time falling asleep because the images of Matt’s baseball journey flashed through my mind: the countless hours that in youth fields and in batting cages, miles on our cars going to tournaments, games played in dust bowls into the crazy hours of the morning or late at night.
Ross and Fernando wrote passionately about their sons. They weren’t boastful, noting that the stories conveyed the challenges their sons faced that only became more apparent once they reached the big leagues.
“Baseball is tough, it hits you,” Matt said. “My dad understood that baseball is everyday. He would want to say things to me when I was in a bad mood, but baseball can beat you more mentally than physically. He knew when to say things and when not to say things. .”
Eli soon became independent. As a high school student, he turned down a scholarship offer from nearby Chapman University and negotiated an optional contract with Gonzaga without his parents’ understanding.
“He doesn’t call me to figure things out,” Dave said.
One of Dave’s proudest moments at the dinner came after Eli was fired for six runs in 2 2/3 innings during his May 28, 2021, show on a rainy night in Cleveland.
“As disappointed as Eli was with the result, he put it aside and made sure to enjoy the moment with his family and friends,” Dave said.
David Newhan is trying what his father did years ago. No, he’s not a Times athlete, but he has a son who wants to play baseball at the next level. Nico Newhan hit .530 and led the state with 61 hits as a junior last season at San Diego Maranatha Christian Academy. Ross and his wife, Connie, rarely miss a game.
David, 48, was a hitting coach with the Detroit Tigers in 2015-16 and later a minor league coach with the Angels and Pirates. Nico swung bats during batting practice at Comerica Park and hit the clubs like his dad did in his youth.
When Ross covered the Angels decades ago, David was welcomed in the clubhouse and on the field during spring training. Jimmie Reese punched him. Reggie Jackson gave him the bat.
“Then I decided, this That’s what I want to do,” David said. “Now everything has changed. As a child writer, it’s not like that anymore.”
When Fernando retired two years ago, he and his wife, Cindy, moved from LA to the Phoenix area, buying a house around the corner from where Matt, 32, lives with his wife, Brittany, and two young children.
Eli, 26, is single and focused exclusively on helping the Guardians win. He throws one of the baseballs the most effective changes and has become a bullpen master after making 18 starts as a rookie last season.
He never wanted to be an athlete. Neither Matt nor David, who might have been short when he was still an actor.
“Playing seemed a lot more fun than writing,” David said. “My dad writes at home, and one thing I’ve seen a lot is him cooking up a storm, screaming at the laptop. I understand what an athlete goes through.”