The last time a member of the Bellinger family took the field in a World Series game it was in 2001, as Oneonta native Clay Bellinger stepped into the box as a member of a New York Yankees team that would eventually fall to the Arizona Diamondbacks. That will change Tuesday night in Los Angeles, as Clay’s son Cody gets set to make his World Series debut as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Clay, a 1986 graduate of Oneonta High School, was a junior on the first ever Yellowjackets team to win a STAC championship in 1985. He did it all for OHS, playing pitcher and infielder and excelling on the mound and at the plate. In his junior year, Clay hit .328 and had six wins as a pitcher. As a senior, Clay continued to dominate no matter where he was on the diamond. He hit a school-record six home runs, a mark that stood until 2013 when it was broken by Chris Pindar. On the mound, Bellinger was just as dominant, striking out 76 batters in 48 innings pitched with just five walks.
“Clay was quiet and determined and went about everything the same way, keep your mouth shut and play hard,” Oneonta Athletic Director Joe Hughes said. “He was a great teammate and a great player. He was a leader and an extremely hard worker who had talent not only as a pitcher but also hitting the ball. He was a special player.”
As Bellinger’s head coach throughout his high-school tenure, Hughes had a front-row seat to witness just how special he was and can recall more than a few games that he single-handedly kept the Yellowjackets alive.
“On April 8, 1985, we played Chenango Valley and in that game, he had two hits, both were home runs, and he had four RBI and two stolen bases,” Hughes said. “Then as a pitcher he walked one and struck out 12 over seven innings. It was just a tremendous performance that showed the type of player he was.”
Following his career at OHS, Bellinger went on to play at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., and was eventually drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the 1989 MLB Amateur Draft. He spent 10 seasons in the minor leagues, including six at the AAA level, which is somewhat uncommon. But, like his former coach said, Clay was determined, and that determination finally paid off when got his shot at playing in the big leagues on April 9, 1999, against the Detroit Tigers.
Clay spent parts of the 1999, 2000, and 2001 seasons with the Yankees, playing every position except catcher and pitcher. He appeared in both the 2000 and 2001 World Series with the Yankees, and earned World Series rings for his appearances in 2000 and in a reserve role with the 1999 team.
Clay’s career was one that took time to develop, one that saw his patience in the minor leagues pay dividends in the end as he celebrated world championships with his teammates. But for Cody, who grew up in Arizona, it’s been an almost meteoric rise to stardom since his time in professional baseball began.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school by the Dodgers, Bellinger came into the 2017 season projected as a late-season call up, but he’s shattered those expectations. In 132 regular season games played this year with L.A., Bellinger hit .267 with a .352 on-base percentage while slugging .581 and smashing a NL-rookie record 39 home runs.
Bellinger led the Dodgers in home runs, RBI (97) and slugging percentage in his first season in the majors after not having been called up to the show until the Dodgers’ 21st game of the year. His excellent play hasn’t stopped in the post season either.
After being an integral part of the Dodgers’ success during the regular season, Bellinger hasn’t let up, batting .278 with two home runs and four RBI in eight games. At just 22 years old, almost three full years younger than Yankees rookie star Aaron Judge, Cody is on a path to become one of the faces of not just the Dodgers’ organization, but of Major League Baseball.
For a while, it looked as though the Dodgers were destined to face the Yankees in the 2017 World Series, forcing some in the area to make a difficult decision between Cody and the team they frequently support. However, after they fell to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the ALCS, the Yankee faithful have no conflict of interest when deciding to get behind another Bellinger.
“I think we’re all excited for Clay and Cody and the family and I can’t imagine how proud they are of Cody, especially knowing how much time and effort Clay put into his game, to see his son on that stage must be special.” Hughes said. “Now I’m a Dodgers fan, at least for the World Series, and I would bet there are a lot of people around (Oneonta) that are as well.”