The name on the backs of their jerseys is the same, and there is a slight resemblance in their faces. Otherwise, the Cincinnati Reds' new second baseman and new bench coach don't have much in common.
Like father, like son?
"If we took a class together, I'd try to read every book there was on the subject," said the father, Bob Boone. "He'd buy the Cliff's notes, or get a video, or have someone tell him about it. To him, working out is a chore. To me, it was always part of my life. Overall, he's more fun-loving. I'm more of a nerd."
Through separate and, supposedly, unrelated off-season transactions, the Reds united Bob and Bret Boone for the first time in their baseball careers. With Bob's father, Ray, the Boones are baseball's first three-generation family, but no two Boones had been on the same team.
Bret, the scrappy infielder with the powerful bat, was acquired in a trade from Seattle to bolster the Reds' offense. Three weeks later, Bob, the former All-Star catcher, was hired away from his post managing Oakland's Class AAA club.
When the Reds approached Bob, shortly after he interviewed for the Houston manager's job, he had the obvious concerns about teaming up with his son: Would it be good for Bret? Would it be bad for Bret? Would it be better career-wise for Bob to return to Tacoma?
"In the end," Bob said, "It was like, "Wow, what would be really good about me being there is that I'd get to see Bret for a summer.' We've never been together."
Bob figures he has seen only four or five of Bret's 109 big-league games. Bret never has had the experience of seeing his dad over a full season. Both say they are looking forward to being on the same side. They say they don't anticipate any awkwardness or problems and won't have any trouble keeping their baseball and personal lives apart.
"I don't think Bret will let the fact that Bob is sitting there bother him at all," said Sue Boone, mother and wife to the Reds' duo.
The Boones cite spring training as proof of normalcy. Bret, married during the winter, lives with his wife. Bob stays in the team hotel. They come and go separately from the ballpark. They've had just a few dinners together.
"It's not that big a deal," Bret Boone said. "He's got a job to do, and I've got mine. On the field, we have a business/professional relationship. It's really not a father-son relationship."
But, Bret said, that doesn't mean they aren't close. Considering Bob started playing professional baseball the same year Bret was born, the familial relationship is strong. "I wouldn't trade fathers with anybody," Bret said.
Bret speaks in glowing terms of Bob's professionalism and work ethic. "In my eyes, he's as good a role model as anyone," Bret said. "Not what he physically did, but the way he went about it." Bob raves about Bret's defense, 20-home run power and individuality.
Sue Boone said the two share a special bond.
"As much as they're different, they're very, very close in their relationship," she said from the family's California home. "Bob doesn't always think Bret listens, but Bret listens to every word Bob says. He stores it away and uses what he needs to use.
"He doesn't allow Bob's decisions to be final. He's definitely his own man. And Bob doesn't try to put pressure on him or try to sway him. He's there when Bret needs him. He waits for Bret to go to him. Even if Bret's struggling, and I'll ask Bob if he's going to talk with him. He says, "When he's ready to ask, I'll be there to tell him what I think.' "
For both, this is an important season.
Bret, 24, has a chance to show he belongs in the major leagues after what was literally an up-and-down rookie season with Seattle _ three trips between the Mariners and their Class AAA club. After rejoining the M's for good July 30, Boone batted .255 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI in 220 at-bats. "I think I established myself last year," Bret said.
Bob, 46, has an opportunity to re-learn the National League (he has been in the AL since Philadelphia sold his contract to California following the 1981 season) and add the duties of bench coach to a resume that he hopes will soon net him a job managing in the big leagues.
Both say they are prepared for the ups and downs that are built into the eight-month baseball season. Bret says he can deal with facing up to his dad even after a particularly bad game. And Bob says he can objectively pass judgment on his son.
But, Bob admitted, there will be some special moments. If Bret makes a costly error, "then he's the second baseman," Bob said. "But if he hits the big home run to win the game, then, yes, he's my son."
A list of other father/son-coach/player baseball combos, past and present:
Bobby and Barry Bonds, Giants
Don and Damon Buford, Orioles
Ken and Ken Jr. Griffey, Mariners
Cal, Cal Jr. and Bill Ripken, Orioles
Felipe and Moises Alou, Expos
Sandy, Sandy Jr. and Roberto Alomar, Padres
Jim and Mike Hegan, Yankees