Sometimes it’s all about blood. The first two picks in last week’s MLB draft – Jackson Holliday and Drew Jones – are the sons of former major league stars Matt Holliday and Andrew Jones.
Sometimes it isn’t. Three major league players in the last 14 years are the sons of former LA Times sportswriters.
Sons of MLB players tend to crush or throw 90 mph fastballs, no wonder.
The children of sportswriters are adept at doing something more athletic than dripping mustard on their shirts while eating hot dogs and writing at the same time.
Like father, like son.
Except in the case of Dave Morgan and his son Eli, in his second season as a Cleveland Guard pitcher; Ross Newhan and son David, who celebrated eight major league seasons with five teams; and Fernando Dominguez and 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 covering the Angels and Dodgers for The Times from 1968-2004 and was inducted into the Writers’ Wing of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 2001.
Fernando Dominguez was an award-winning writer and copy editor in The Times’ sports department from 1990 until his retirement in 2020. Born in Cuba, his love of baseball made him editor of the Dodgers and Angels stories at the deadline.
Every sportswriter probably dreamed of becoming a professional athlete long before they picked up a pen and pad. Not many would dream that their son would play in the big leagues.
What is the equivalent? A food writer whose child is a Michelin star chef? A political writer who became a child member of Congress? A music critic who was a child Grammy-winning singer?
And all with the same publication? Rare, rarer and rarest.
Dave and Eli Morgan were at Dodger Stadium together last month on Father’s Day, as they have been so often over the years. The difference was that Eli was pitching.
Eli, a setup reliever in his second year with the Rangers, threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers, lowering his ERA to 1.62. He entered with one out in the seventh and struck out Gavin Lux and Freddie Freeman. In the eighth, he walked Will Smith, retiring three straight batters. The Rangers took the lead in the ninth and Eli picked up the win.
It was a surreal experience for father and son.
“He would take me to games growing up, Angels games, Dodgers games, Lakers games,” Eli said. “I’ve always had a great relationship with my dad.”
When Dave and his wife, Diana, attended Gonzaga after graduating from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in 2014, they made frequent trips to watch Eli pitch. He was an eighth-round draft pick in 2017 and rose quickly through the minors.
“They both have a lot of miles under their belts,” Eli said. “They came to a ton of my college games, a ton of my little league games.”
In 2008, Eli became aware of his father’s position in sports journalism when BusinessWeek named Dave one of the 100 Most Influential People in Sports.
“He was mostly behind the scenes as an editor and executive, but it was great for our family to see him get this recognition,” Eli 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 sons play because others wrote or edited stories about their sons.
David Newhan debuted with the San Diego Padres in 1999, but bounced around several organizations and never made it out of triple A until the Baltimore Orioles called him up on June 18, 2004.
Ross was working at Dodger Stadium that evening and was watching the Orioles game against the Colorado Rockies on his laptop. In the ninth inning, David pinch-hit and hit a home run.
For one glorious moment in his career as a Hall of Fame baseball writer, Ross Newhan allowed himself to scream with delight in the press box.
“I could only see the box score,” Ross said. “Here’s the pitch, the ball is in play, and the next thing I see is a HR. I let out a smile. [Times writer] Bill Shaikin was sitting next to me and he never let me forget it.
Matt Dominguez was the third baseman for the Houston Astros in the August 2013 series at Angel Stadium. He secured nearly 100 tickets for family and friends, then went eight for 14 with two home runs in three games.
Fernando took Friday and Saturday off to participate in the games. The series finale was starting at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, so he got through six takes before leaving to get to Times Mirror Square in downtown Los Angeles to start his editing shift at 3 p.m.
“I remember turning on the radio in the car before going home,” Fernando said.
The three-run blast in the seventh inning was Matt’s fourth career hit and gave the Astros a lead they would not relinquish.
It wasn’t the first time Fernando’s son had won a game at home. Matt played for the US junior national team in 2006 when he was 16 years old. The tournament was held in Cuba and the tournament was held in Moron, where Fernando grew up.
“It was a strange feeling to go there and drive the streets where my father was born and raised,” Matt said. “He told me that Moro was known for a large statue of a rooster, and there it was!”
Cousins he never knew came to the semi-final game between the USA and Cuba. Fernando and his wife, Cindy, were watching the action online when the connection went out early in the game.
The game remained scoreless 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 about the game in Spanish in a Cuban newspaper.
“It’s been like that for most of his career,” Fernando said. “I’d be at work, watching him play online with one tab open and editing the story with the other.”
Being a ball player at the highest level is not all glitz and glory. Sportswriters adapt to the tough road from youth ball to the big leagues, the inherent vicissitudes of the game, and the daily repetitive tasks that even the best players endure.
Newhan, Dominguez and Morgan experienced it all.
In a 2004 Father’s Day column a few days after David’s home run against the Rockies, Ross wrote that David’s “baseball odyssey taught him that even with your father’s profession, you have no guarantees and little to believe in except yourself. “
Injuries cost David two seasons as he was transitioning to the major leagues. He bounced back and became a valuable 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, describing the experience from a parent’s perspective: “It was hard to sleep that night as images of Matt’s baseball journey flashed through my mind: countless hours spent on youth fields and sports. batting cages, miles put on our cars going to tournaments, games played in dust bowls with early morning or late night start times.”
Ross and Fernando reluctantly wrote about their son. They didn’t brag and made sure to convey the struggles their sons faced in the stories, which only became more pronounced when they reached the big leagues.
“Baseball is a tough game, it puts a load on you,” Matt said. “My dad understood that baseball was every day. When I was in a slump, he would tell me something, but baseball can beat you mentally, not physically. He knew when to speak and when not to speak.”
Eli was independent early on. As a junior in high school, he turned down a scholarship offer from nearby Chapman University and negotiated a preferred deal with Gonzaga without his parents’ input.
“He doesn’t call me to figure things out,” Dave said.
One of Dave’s proudest moments came at dinner on May 28, 2021, after being fired up for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Eli’s debut on a rainy night in Cleveland.
“Even though Eli was disappointed with the outcome, he put it aside and made sure to enjoy the moment with his family and friends,” Dave said.
David Newhan is living what his father did years ago. No, he’s not a Times sports writer, but he does have a son who aspires to play baseball at the next level. Nico Newhan hit .530 as a junior last season at San Diego Maranatha Christian Academy and led the state with 61 hits. Ross and his wife Connie rarely miss a game.
David, 48, was a hitting coach with the Detroit Tigers in 2015-16 and then a minor league coach with the Angels and Pirates. Nico swatted flies during batting practice at Comerica Park and spent time in clubhouses as a teenager like his father.
When Ross covered the Angels decades ago, David was welcomed in the clubhouse and on the field during spring training. Jimmie Reese mushroomed him. Reggie Jackson gave him a bat.
“Then I decided that this It’s what I want to do,” David said. “Now everything has changed. As a child writer, that doesn’t happen anymore.”
When Fernando retired two years ago, he and his wife, Cindy, moved from Los Angeles to the Phoenix area, buying a house around the corner from where Matt, 32, lives with his wife, Brittany, and their two young children.
Eli, 26, is single and focused on helping the Guardians win. He throws a baseball the most effective changes and became a mainstay after starting 18 games as a rookie last season.
He never wanted to be a sportswriter. Matt or David, who could put it most succinctly when they were still players, didn’t.
“It seemed more fun to play than to write,” David said. “My dad writes at home and one thing I see a lot is him cursing and yelling at the laptop during storms. I understand what a sportswriter goes through.”