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updated: 3/1/2012 8:04 PM

Four Cubs born with baseball in their blood

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  • Michael Brenly, Bob Brenly's son at Cubs spring training camp in Mesa.

       Michael Brenly, Bob Brenly's son at Cubs spring training camp in Mesa.
    Bruce Miles | Staff Photographer

  • Pitcher Casey Coleman bunting at Cubs spring training camp in Mesa.

       Pitcher Casey Coleman bunting at Cubs spring training camp in Mesa.
    Bruce Miles | Staff Photographer

  • Pitcher James Russell covering first base at Cubs spring training camp at Mesa.

       Pitcher James Russell covering first base at Cubs spring training camp at Mesa.
    Bruce Miles | Staff Photographer

  • San Francisco Giants catcher Bob Brenly tips his hat to the crowd during a standing ovation prior to batting against the New York Mets at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, in this Sept. 2, 1989 photo. Brenly, a broadcaster and former major league catcher, has been hired as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team source said Monday Oct. 30, 2000, speaking on condition of anonymity.

      San Francisco Giants catcher Bob Brenly tips his hat to the crowd during a standing ovation prior to batting against the New York Mets at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, in this Sept. 2, 1989 photo. Brenly, a broadcaster and former major league catcher, has been hired as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team source said Monday Oct. 30, 2000, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    Associated Press

  • Jeff Russell, (40) Texas Rangers, March 1989.

      Jeff Russell, (40) Texas Rangers, March 1989.

  • Detroit Tigers pitcher Joe Coleman is shown Feb. 24, 1974.

      Detroit Tigers pitcher Joe Coleman is shown Feb. 24, 1974.

  • Joe P. Coleman played in the major leagues, and is the grandfather of Cubs pitcher Casey Coleman and father of former Tigers pitcher Joe H. Coleman.

      Joe P. Coleman played in the major leagues, and is the grandfather of Cubs pitcher Casey Coleman and father of former Tigers pitcher Joe H. Coleman.

 
 

Few things say "baseball" better than a dad playing catch with his son.

And few things make dads prouder than seeing their sons grow up to be major-league players.

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A couple of years back, we did a spring-training story on three Cubs with fathers -- and in one case a father and a grandfather -- who logged time in the major leagues.

Those three players are still with the Cubs: pitchers Casey Coleman and James Russell and minor-league outfielder Jim Adduci. They've been joined by catcher Michael Brenly, whose dad, Bob, analyzes Cubs games on TV.

Coleman and Russell have logged significant big-league time. Adduci suffered a freak injury last season at Class AA Tennessee and still is trying to make his way to the top. And Brenly is in his first big-league camp after being drafted by the Cubs in 2008.

In interviews with the young players, each said that his relationship with his dad had evolved over the time of his professional career.

Let's take a look at how.

Honoring thy father:

When Casey Coleman made it to the major leagues in 2010, he became the first third-generation pitcher to do so. His dad and grandfather, both named Joe Coleman, also were pitchers.

Casey's father compiled a record of 142-135 over 15 major-league seasons. From 1971-74, Joe Coleman pitched no fewer than 280 innings in each of those four seasons.

Rather than seek glory for himself, Casey Coleman said he'd like to have a successful career so that more people could remember his dad's.

"For me, it feels really good because you feel you've lived up to the family name and you carry it on," Casey said. "If he didn't get much recognition when he was playing, then maybe this helps bring out his career a little more.

"Back then it was a little different. He was pitching every fourth day. It was totally different from what it is now. I would love to have the career he had."

Joe Coleman is a former big-league pitching coach. When his son first came up, Dad would get pretty nervous.

"He still gets nervous," Casey said. "I remember when I was facing the Brewers, and (Ryan) Braun and (Prince) Fielder were coming up. He had to walk down the road for a little bit."

Casey Coleman, 24, is 7-11 with a 5.48 ERA in parts of two seasons with the Cubs, and he's fighting for a job this spring. He said his dad is there for him, but he doesn't push it.

"Oh, yeah, we talk all the time," Casey said. "He's at home all off-season. This was my last off-season living at home. He talked to me about pitching and different things.

"The good thing about him is that he's hands-off. He never comes and tells me I need to do this, I need to do that. He's just been really good about letting me do my thing.

"If I have a question, I'll come to him and ask him, and he'll give me an answer. He's been really good about just leaving me be and just giving me a lot of confidence."

Two different pitchers:

James Russell is a left-handed relief pitcher who doesn't overpower hitters, but he can get a key left-handed batter out.

His dad, Jeff Russell, was a hard-throwing, right-handed closer who could blow the ball past just about anybody.

"I wish he could have passed along a couple more miles an hour," James quipped.

While the elder Russell was and still is a lively character, James seems more laid-back. Still, the two are able to talk pitching.

"We still talk equally as much," James said. "He's gotten more relaxed. He's not as tense when I'm throwing now. When I was in college, you could see him on the concourse just walking back and forth and pacing. He was a wreck.

"Now that I'm here and kind of gotten a feel for it, he's relaxed a little bit. It makes it easier to talk to him."

The younger Russell is hoping to fill the shoes of Sean Marshall, whom the Cubs traded to Cincinnati over the winter. The role of closer doesn't appear to be in Russell's future, but he said his dad wants him to excel in whatever role he finds.

"He wants me to be better than him," James said. "But I've got some work to do before I can get that far. I'd be more than happy with his career."

Passing it down, literally:

Michael Brenly didn't become a catcher just because his dad, Bob, was one.

It might have been something else.

"He always says because I got all the cool gear," said Michael, a nonroster invitee to spring training. "I got to wear the shin guards and all that stuff. I just like it. It's fun.

"You're always involved in something. You're not just standing around. You get to work closely with pitchers and get to control the game, so it makes it a lot more fun."

Brenly spent the winter working out in Deerfield. At Class A Daytona last year, Brenly batted .206 with 1 home run. Although he's working on his offense, he knows his catching ability and smarts will be his tickets to the big leagues if he makes it.

The Cubs have stepped up their catching instruction this spring. In addition to working with starting catcher Geovany Soto, Brenly knows Dad is there for him, too.

"It's fun," Michael said. "Not only can I pick Geo's brain and all the instructors' here, but go home and talk to Dad about stuff, too. That's fun because he knows how to break stuff down for me. He knows the terminology we've used all our lives.

"So he might be able to simplify something that maybe I'm a little unsure on or something that doesn't sound right to me. He might be able to say it in a different way and not go behind somebody's back but say it in a way that I can understand."

Michael said he has told his dad that he's coming after him, but for now Pops has the upper hand.

"I've tried to, but he shows me his baseball card and tells me he made the all-star team," Michael said. "No, definitely just following in his footsteps and making it one day to the big leagues would be enough."

A couple of grinders:

If James Adduci is going to make the major leagues, he may have to grind his way there. Now 26, he is fighting his way back into the picture after suffering an injury last year.

While sliding into a base for Tennessee, Adduci had his right thumb broken when the throw hit him. Doctors placed pins in the area, and although Adduci rehabbed in Arizona he was not allowed to sweat for fear of infection where the pins were placed.

"I had to get used to them," he said. "I had to clean them out every day out here to make sure there was no infection. I ended up learning how to use my top hand to swing, and it helped me out a lot."

James' dad, Jim Adduci, was up and down in the majors between 1983-89 with the Cardinals, Brewers and Phillies. The younger Adduci said he has talked to his dad about the uncertain life of a professional baseball player.

"I think more so now," he said. "I'm getting a little wiser, I guess. A lot of the stuff that he's gone through, I've gone through the same. It's also stuff off the field. It's not just baseball. It's families. I think that's where it (the relationship) is different."

James Adduci, a Chicago resident born in British Columbia when his dad was playing in Vancouver, was a 42nd-round pick of the Marlins in 2003. He came to the Cubs in a trade.

He was talked about as a possible call-up two summers ago, but it never happened. Perhaps Adduci fell out of favor, but the Cubs are under new management these days.

"It's a new staff, new people coming in, new eyes looking at you," he said. "The opportunities are pretty good. I've been here for a few years, and I've enjoyed the organization.

"It's a change, but it's a change for the better. All I can do is control myself and control what I do. It's just the game and how it is."

• Follow Bruce's Cubs reports via Twitter @BruceMiles2112.

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