SURPRISE, Ariz. -- We've all heard it before, about what a great advantage players who "grew up around the game" have compared to others.
Whether their dads were players or coaches, it didn't matter. They automatically had a leg up on the competition, not just because of genetics, but because they inherently understood what the pro game was all about.
Like with any axiom, there is some truth to it. Sons of players or coaches undoubtedly have some advantages. They're probably more likely to be scouted and, as time passes, given ample opportunity to prove themselves. Bloodlines do count for something in this game. They definitely are unlikely to be blindsided by what the jump to the pro game is like. And they almost definitely have a sounding board/personal coach to count on.
But is it all good? It can't be, right? There must be some black cloud behind that silver lining.
"Some people expect you to know everything already," said Beau Mills, son of Boston Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills. "I lived through it as a kid; I wasn't actually playing in it."
"There's a down side to it if you make one," said Chad Tracy, son of former Major League manager Jim Tracy. "If you put that kind of pressure on yourself, there's a down side."
Mills and Tracy are teammates here in the Arizona Fall League with the Surprise Rafters. They've both heard it all before, that they should come in as graduate students ready to jump right in and streak to the big leagues. Both know it's a little more difficult than some make it seem, but they do know one thing for sure: They both have to answer a lot of questions about their dads.
"I think every interview I get asked, but that's what comes with it," Mills said. "Because I did. I did grow up in the game and it's something that just comes with the territory."
They also know that the heightened expectations come with the territory. Some of it is warranted, and in some respects both have lived up to it. Mills, after all, was a first-round pick in 2007 and hit .293 with 21 homers and 90 RBIs to win Carolina League MVP honors in his first full season. And he's done it even though, gasp, he's had a lot to learn.
There's a whole different side of it," Mills explained. "Coming out and being around the game and then actually playing in professional baseball, on the team, walking around on that field, it's a whole different thing in terms of preparing your body for the everyday grind, stuff like that, stuff I didn't learn because I wasn't playing [as a kid]."
Tracy was a 2006 third-rounder who's risen to Double-A in his two full seasons. Despite having to learn two new defensive positions, he's shown some proclivity with the bat. Tracy hit .296 with 17 homers, 40 doubles and 82 RBIs between Class A Advanced Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco. He definitely practices what he preaches in terms of not letting the pressure of being a manager's son bother him.
"I've been this way ever since I was in little league, that I don't put pressure on myself," Tracy said. "I'm just another guy. I'm just like any other guy out here that's been playing baseball since we were little kids and we love it. I don't try to think about that I need to be doing better because of my dad. I'm in the same boat as these guys are. I'm just trying to enjoy it and have fun."
The two have enjoyed having each other as teammates here, even if it's only for a short time. In the near future, the pair will meet up as American League opponents if all goes according to plan.
And even though they don't discuss the down side of coming from a baseball family all that much, they can and perhaps will continue to take comfort in knowing someone else gets it... and knows how to deal with it.
"We haven't talked about it too much," Tracy said. "I know his dad's in baseball and has been for a while and he knows it's the same with my dad. We talk sometimes a little bit about what we talk to our dad's about at night as far as hitting and that sort of thing, but Beau's the same way. He's real laid back. He's out here to enjoy it and have fun and he doesn't put that kind of pressure on himself."
So keep that in mind next time you see a player who "grew up around the game." They don't put that kind of pressure on themselves, so think twice before you do it for them.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.