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A quick glance at a Brockton Rox roster first elicits some inevitable eyebrow-raising, then some tapping on a friend’s shoulder, followed by some incessant googling before the first pitch.
D’Angelo Ortiz. Manny Ramirez Jr. Pedro Martinez Jr. Kade Foulke. Jaden Sheffield.
All on the same team? How could that be?
At first, it seems like an elaborate ruse or a celebrity All-Star game with some misspelled first names. The reality, though, is that they’re the sons of five Major League stars — including four members of the 2004 Red Sox World Series team — working relentlessly to carve out their own legacies in baseball and beyond.
All five are incredibly proud to carry on the tradition associated with such recognizable last names, but they have lofty dreams of their own. They’ve each found a summer home with the Rox, who play at Campanelli Stadium as part of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
On Thursday, Ramirez Jr. hit a clutch, go-ahead home run in the ninth inning that drove in Ortiz. The next night, Martinez Jr. went deep. Good genes are a part of it, but there’s a lot more to their story.
Ortiz, a 6-foot-1 infielder with a familiar swagger, plays at Miami Dade College. Ramirez Jr., a 6-foot-1 infielder with a familiar carefree nature, plays at Tallahassee Community College. Martinez, a 5-foot-9 outfielder with familiar poise and precision, plays at Lynn College. Foulke, a 6-foot pitcher with a familiar approach to the game, plays at Galveston College. Sheffield, a 6-foot outfielder with a familiar grin, plays at Georgetown University.
Many refer to them as “The Five Sons.” None of them knew coming in that they would all be teammates, but they’re not complaining. They’re used to the attention and are trying to put their own spin on it.
“To us, it’s playing baseball with your boys,” Ortiz said. “To the whole world, it’s more of a reunion.”
Ortiz, Ramirez Jr., and an older and “more mature” Martinez Jr. grew up having play dates together, and Martinez Jr. referred to them as “like my younger brothers.” He and Manny Jr. used to carpool to school together, and he and D’Angelo live near each other now and are always in contact.
If they ever get tired of the extra eyeballs, or wonder what it’s like to be just another college athlete, they remember they have four other players nearby who truly know what they’re experiencing.
“It’s good to have people that relate to you,” Martinez Jr. said. “It helps you feel human and helps you feel normal. It relieves some kind of pressure or stress too, knowing you’re not alone.”
They spoke individually to Boston.com about their bonds with their fathers, their baseball journeys, and more.
When David Ortiz belted a home run at the 2004 All-Star Game, he had his two-day-old son, D’Angelo, in mind as he trotted around the bases.
“You know I had to show out,” D’Angelo recalls his father saying.
Three months later, as Ortiz willed the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years, he continued to rely on that positive newborn energy.
“You were the good luck charm,” he told D’Angelo.
D’Angelo has been around the game since before he can remember. He used to play with Manny Ramirez Jr. and Pedro Martinez Jr. at Fenway Park and recalls spending time with Ramirez Jr. as part of his daily schedule.
As he grew older, he woke up at 6 a.m. and went to the field with his dad to train. He then joined David at work and often shagged batting practice or took cuts in the cage with coaches nearby to guide him. He built a baseball routine and started to constantly think about the game like his father.
“It’s such a blessing that I’ve been able to grow up in that, but it’s also a curse,” D’Angelo said with a grin, “because my mind doesn’t stop thinking about baseball.”
David has given him countless hitting tips over the years and has explained how it’s more of a mental exercise than anything else. Pitchers usually have sequences, David told him, and sometimes it’s helpful to give up one decent pitch to wait for a better one to drive.
His lessons extend well beyond hitting, as D’Angelo turns to him for advice and guidance. They love seeing movies and going shopping in downtown Miami — David is more of a shopper than D’Angelo, but they both cherish the alone time. Sometimes it’s hard to get true one-on-one moments in public, because people constantly approach them, but he loves every outing.
David encourages him to be himself and often reminds him that nothing is guaranteed. D’Angelo already knows that, but the reassurance never hurts. He feels some pressure as Big Papi’s son, but he tries to be himself and let his game do the talking.
“In life, the best thing he’s taught me is that no one is going to wait around for you,” D’Angelo said. “No one feels like they owe you anything. You have to go and get it.”
When best friends Manny Ramirez and Manny Ramirez Jr. go to the movies, the elder Ramirez — the one who usually suggests the outing initially — often falls asleep early in the film.
Ramirez Jr. glances over to tell him something and laughs as he sees that he dozed off again. Last time they went, when they saw the new Spider-Man movie, he was sound asleep and snoring within 30 minutes.
“It’s just nap time,” Ramirez Jr. said with a laugh.
Manny being Manny.
They’ve been inseparable his whole life, and Ramirez Jr. is grateful that his father always carves out time — even when his schedule is jam-packed.
“He’s always there for me, anything I need,” Ramirez Jr. said. “I call him any time of the day if I’m struggling. He’s just an amazing dad.”
Ramirez Jr., born in 2003, first fell in love with the sport around 4 or 5 while watching his dad smash balls over the Green Monster. Much like D’Angelo, he was along for the 2004 World Series ride but doesn’t remember anything.
He does, however, recall hanging out with D’Angelo and Pedro, and he called it a “once in a lifetime” development that they’re now all on the same team. Ramirez Jr. said all five sons are united because of their background and that it was easy to feel comfortable around one another just a week into the season.
They don’t view themselves as “famous” or different from anyone else, but they understand why the buzz is there. They’re all simply pursuing a dream.
“I feel like the pressure is gone,” Ramirez Jr. said. “We grew up with that since 6 or 7 years old. Now it’s numb. We don’t even feel it. We just go out there and play our game.”
Pedro Martinez Jr. was there when Yankees fans mercilessly mocked his father with chants of “Who’s your daddy?”
The elder Martinez, of course, was his daddy, and the taunt didn’t sit well.
“You don’t forget a whole stadium screaming at your dad,” Martinez Jr. said.
Martinez Jr. said he initially didn’t understand the full scope of his father’s legacy and thought, “Oh, my dad’s popular.” Once he got to middle school, and some of his favorite players told him his dad was one of their favorite players, Martinez Jr. started to understand the significance of what his father had accomplished.
As his kids grew older, Martinez told them he was “passing the torch” to them, but he never pressured them to follow in his footsteps. The younger Martinez is a hitter, not a pitcher, and has made a name for himself over the years.
Martinez Jr. always cherishes their one-on-one trips to Spring Training and beyond and said he wouldn’t be the man or player he is today without him.
“We’re very different people,” Martinez Jr. said. “I’m never going to be him, and he’s never going to be me. I know who I am. Sure, there’s pressure at times, but I know that I’m my own person. I can’t try and be someone I’m not. I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I don’t need to put on this act or a show.”
Martinez Jr. said he feels like baseball is part of his purpose, but his purpose is bigger than baseball. He’s thankful that his father showed him the way.
“The person I’ve always seen him as is the dad, my best friend, and my strength,” Martinez Jr. said. “He really holds me together in tough times.”
Whenever Kade Foulke doles out an autograph at Campanelli Stadium, he does so as Keith Foulke’s son.
When he takes the mound and pitches, he does that for himself.
“Here at Brockton,” the younger Foulke said, “there’s two parts.”
Foulke dabbled in many sports as a kid, but with his father’s guidance, he quickly realized baseball was his calling. His dad taught him to prepare for the worst, stay calm, and throw the ball hard late. Much of the game is mental, and remembering that is imperative.
“The fact that I’ve had Keith Foulke as my teacher and mentor, it really helped me a lot,” he said.
He was born Nov. 10, 2003, and his first flight was to St. Louis at 11 months to watch his father clinch one of the most significant victories in sports history. Foulke said his father was simply focused on completing the task at hand, but years later, the elder Foulke is proud of helping a city officially — finally — take a collective breath.
“Now he understands how important it was to a lot of people,” his son said. “He’s really honored by the fact that he was the one to do it.”
Jaden Sheffield is the lone non-Red Sox son of the bunch, but don’t worry, he’s a Braves fan.
He fondly remembers running through the clubhouse at Tiger Stadium and wreaking havoc on the carousel and spending time with Gary as a young kid.
Sheffield called the baseball world “really small” and made it clear many of these connections go way back. D’Angelo called Jaden when he was looking into IMG Academy. Jaden turned to Pedro Martinez when he tried pitching for a bit due to an injury (not a bad mentor).
He’s grateful for his dad’s conscious choice to not force him into baseball. When he received his first scholarship offer from a junior college, he cherished the moment with his father as they both realized his vision was coming to fruition.
People often ask him if he wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps, and he thinks that’s a funny question. Much like his teammates, he plays the game because he genuinely loves it.
They all agree that what their fathers did on the field was amazing, but they want to be known as more than their fathers’ kids. Jaden Sheffield, not just Gary Sheffield’s son.
“We’re all in a situation right now where we’re trying to create our own identity,” Jaden said. “We’re all trying to create our own presence in the game of baseball.”
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