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Baseball: Son of 1987 AL MVP carving out a name for himself

The son of a famous name is making a name for himself.

That name is George Bell Jr., whose father, George Bell Sr., was a three-time MLB all star and the 1987 American League MVP, playing most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays.

It turns out the senior Bell had another job: batting coach for his son.

“I’ve got help from other people, but he’s the one who’s been there always in the backyard hitting with me and my brother,” Bell Jr. said. “He always tells me to keep an eye on the ball, try to stay low instead of jumping and hit the ball hard.”

Bell Jr., a corner outfielder for the Riverhead Tomcats, has done all of the above and the results have shown. The sophomore from Connors State College (Oklahoma) was named the MVP of the recent HCBL All-Star Game, going 2-for-2 with a home run and three RBIs. For the season he has a .312 batting, two homers and 23 RBIs in 30 games.

The elder Bell was known as a free-swinging power hitter, and his son said he is similar.

“He’s a good one,” Tomcats coach Mike Amendola said. “He’ll chase every now and then, but if you leave one in the middle, he makes it hurt.”

Bell Jr., who bats from the right side, said: “I can hit the ball hard the other way, so whenever we need a hit, I’m not trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark every time. I’m just trying to make good contact and help my team.”

For a big man, he can run, too, having bagged eight stolen bases. “He’s probably one of my best three runners on the team,” Amendola said. “He can really move.”

Bell Jr. said he keeps in daily contact with his father, who follows his progress. “I talk to him every day, before the game and after the game, always,” he said.

In addition to his father and himself, three of Bell Jr.’s uncles and two of his brothers were signed by MLB teams out of the Dominican Republic, where Bell Jr. was born.

Tall and lean (6-foot-4, 195 pounds) with a looping swing, Bell Jr. was smiling in between taking turns during batting practice Monday.

“Baseball’s my life and it’s been a dream since I was a kid,” he said. “It’s not something like my dad made me do.” He continued: “It’s a game. It’s a job, too, but you should have fun because if you don’t have fun, you’re not going to do good.”

•  Hitting near the top

A couple of Tomcats who bat near the top of the order are also next to each other near the top of the HCBL’s batting average rankings. Entering Tuesday’s games, Freddy Sabido (.390) and Alvin Melendez (.359) were third and fourth in the league. Mike Amendola typically pens in Melendez in the second slot, with Sabido third.

“They’re solid hitters,” Amendola said. “They give you a good at-bat every time they go up there. They don’t take any innings off.”

Sabido said it doesn’t hurt, either, to have George Bell Jr. batting cleanup behind him. “With them two in front of me and in back of me, it’s a lot easier to get pitches,” he said. “It’s a lot easier just to stay within myself and hit the ball in the middle of the field and not try to do too much.”

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Photo caption: George Bell Jr., the son of a former MLB all star, has done well this summer, being named the MVP of the HCBL All-Star Game. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)