Like many sons, Cody Bellinger wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is play in the major leaguers since I was 3 or 4 years old,” the Los Angeles Dodgers rookie first baseman said.
Bellinger has made it to the major leagues faster than even he could have imagined, as the 21-year-old made his debut on April 25. Amazingly, he has made a bigger impact in the majors in less than two months than his father, Clay, did while playing four seasons as an infielder with the New York Yankees and the Anaheim Angels, from 1999-2002.
Bellinger’s 22 home runs in just 54 games leads the National League. He’s hitting .271/.344/.665, as his slugging percentage also tops the league.
All this from a player who, in a perfect world, would still be playing in the Pacific Coast for Class AAA Oklahoma City.
“We knew Cody was a good player with a lot of potential, but none of us expected him to play this well this soon,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “What he’s done is amazing. I know I keep using the word a lot, but I don’t know how else to describe it except to say it’s amazing.”
Bellinger was supposed to just be in the major leagues for a few days to help get the Dodgers past some injures in their outfield. However, he hit too well to be sent back down and is now needed as the everyday first baseman with Adrian Gonzalez on the disabled list with back issues.
“I’ve just been fortunate to get the opportunity,” Bellinger said. “I didn’t know what to expect when I got called up as far as how I would perform. I was confident I could hold my own. Everything has just kind of come together. I’m fortunate to be on a good team with a lot of great teammates. I don’t feel any pressure to carry any of the load. I can just do what I can do to contribute.”
Bellinger has been shouldering a large part of the offense, even if modesty prevents him from admitting so. When a member of the Dodgers organization was informed of Bellinger’s comment, he smiled.
“Cody’s a great kid, but don’t let that modesty fool you,” he said. “He’s got a great deal of confidence. In fact, you could say he’s got a bit of cockiness in him. He doesn’t show it on the outside, but he knows he’s good. And I mean that only in a positive. You’ve got to have that belief in yourself to be as good as he is.”
Bellinger knows how to conduct himself in the major leagues despite his young age. That comes in part from his father.
Though the elder Bellinger played in just 183 games in the major leagues and hit fewer home runs (12) than his son has already accumulated in two months — he spent 16 years in professional baseball before his career ended in 2004 while playing for the Baltimore Orioles’ Class AAA Ottawa affiliate.
While Cody reached the major leagues less than four years after the Dodgers selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 amateur draft, Clay spent 11 years in the minor leagues before getting to the big leagues as a 30-year-old.
“You can tell that Cody has a real respect for the game, the kind of respect you usually see from a player a little bit older,” Roberts said. “I’m sure a lot of that comes from his father playing for a long time. That’s been the great part about Cody; as much as his performance on the field, is how well he is handling everything off the field.”
Bellinger has already spent more time in the spotlight than his father. However, he is hoping to bring his dad back into the spotlight to serve as his pitcher if he is invited to participate in the All-Star Home Run Derby on July 10 at Marlins Park in Miami.
It would be reminiscent of the 2011 derby, when then-New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano won at Chase Field in Phoenix while hitting off of his father Jose, who pitched in six games for the Houston Astros in 1989.
“It would be a lot of fun,” Cody Bellinger said. “I’d love the opportunity to be part of it, especially if I could bring my dad along.”
Bellinger might also have a chance to face his brother in a major league game someday.
The San Diego Padres selected right-hander Cole Bellinger in the 15th round of the draft last week out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz. Cole He has committed to play collegiately at Grand Canyon after pitching Hamilton to back-to-back Class 6A titles.
“It would be weird to hit against him in a game,” Cody Bellinger said with a smile. “But it’d be great. I’ve got the chance to reach my dream by getting to the big leagues, and I’d love to see Cole get the same opportunity. It would be awesome to have three big league players from the same family.”