Jose Vizcaino Jr. and Shawon Dunston Jr. remember days in major league clubhouses and on team buses like they were yesterday.
Vizcaino sat in Derek Jeter’s lap while riding the New York Yankees team bus during the 2000 World Series. Jeter and Vizcaino would play on the latest technology – Jeter’s PalmPilot.
Dunston was in the dugout as a San Francisco Giants bat boy for two years, including the 2002 World Series, and watched Barry Bonds in person on a near-daily basis.
These memories were made as a result of successful fathers who spent years in Major League Baseball. Now, the two are playing for the Augusta GreenJackets and trying to follow in their fathers’ footsteps.
“I always loved playing the game and seeing my dad and how much he enjoyed it,” Vizcaino Jr. said. “I knew it was something I wanted to do.”
Jose Vizcaino Sr. played parts of 18 seasons in the major leagues for eight teams, including two separate one-year stints with the Giants. He made a career out of being a valuable utility player, seeing time at five positions, and coming up with clutch hits.
One of the biggest hits came in the 2000 World Series when Vizcaino singled home the winning run in the 12th inning of Game 1 to give the Yankees the series advantage over the New York Mets. The Yankees went on to win in five games.
Vizcaino hit a career .270 and retired after the 2006 season. Not long after came the success of his son, Jose Jr., who starred at Santa Clara University in California. The Giants drafted him out of their backyard in the seventh round in 2015, and he’s working his way up as a corner infielder with power.
“You definitely don’t realize it until you get a bit older to realize that your dad is doing something pretty special,” Vizcaino Jr. said. “Growing up with my little brother and older sister, we were around my mom a lot just because my dad was gone a lot, and my mom is definitely one of my heroes. It was fun growing up around MLB players and successful people, and people you look up to.”
Vizcaino Jr., 23, said his father taught him many things as a baseball player on and off the field. Being the son of a former major leaguer has its tough expectations, but his father helped strengthen the mental side of Vizcaino Jr.’s game.
“He’s taught me everything I know on and off the field,” Vizcaino Jr. said. “I continue to learn from him every day and ask him questions, and he’s constantly helping me and supporting me. He showed me and taught me that it takes a lot of work.”
Shawon Dunston Sr. was drafted first overall in 1982 and also played parts of 18 seasons in the majors, including 12 with the Chicago Cubs and four with the Giants. A two-time All-Star shortstop with the Cubs, he retired as a Giant after the 2002 season with a career .269 average and 150 home runs.
Ten years after Dunston retired, his son Shawon Jr. made his professional debut in the Cubs organization after being drafted in the 11th round in 2011 out of a California high school. He’s now in his second season in the Giants system as an outfielder and has been a member of his father’s two main organizations.
“I’ve been around the game since before I can remember,” Dunston Jr. said. “All I wanted to do was play baseball, be like my dad, become a big leaguer someday. I’m still working toward that goal.”
Dunston Jr., 24, also took his experiences around his father and teammates as moments to learn, such as how to handle the pressure of playing pro baseball and the correct way to work toward goals.
“He told me there would be a lot of sacrifices,” Dunston Jr. said. “If you really want to do this, you have to sacrifice a lot to get where you want to be. It doesn’t matter what route you take as long as you get there and keep giving your best and work hard.”
Both sons knew at an early age they wanted to play baseball. Dunston Jr. doesn’t even remember a time when there were any other thoughts than playing baseball as a career. But he and Vizcaino Jr. both stressed that the support of their fathers would be there regardless of their passions or eventual long-term careers.
“You learn a lot about not only baseball but life in general, how to be successful,” Vizcaino Jr. said. “You see all the behind the scenes, all the hard work, and it’s definitely something special and something I never took for granted.
“Whether I wanted to play baseball or do something else, he was always going to support me.”
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.