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For Dodgers' Scott Van Slyke, a family reunion could be in store

Outfielder might be facing the Pittsburgh Pirates in National League Championship Series, the team for which his father, Andy, who also played with the St. Louis Cardinals, was a three-time All-Star center fielder. 'He's definitely more of a Pirate guy,' Scott says.

October 08, 2013|By Bill Shaikin

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The home team had the chance to clinch the National League division series. The father threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The son waited to see if he would play.

Too bad for the Van Slyke family that father and son were 2,500 miles apart Monday.

Andy Van Slyke, the center fielder for the last Pirates team to advance to the NL Championship Series, threw out the first pitch in Pittsburgh. Scott Van Slyke, a reserve outfielder for the Dodgers, sat on the bench at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers won. The Pirates lost. But the reunion could be delayed rather than dashed.

If the Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of a division series Wednesday, the NLCS would open with Andy Van Slyke facing the choice of rooting for his old team or rooting for his kid.

"That would be cool," Scott Van Slyke said. "I think he would cheer for the Dodgers."

Actually, the father could root for his old team even if the Pirates lose. Andy Van Slyke played the first four seasons of his career for the Cardinals, and father and son each live in the St. Louis area.

But Andy Van Slyke played eight years with the Pirates, making the All-Star team three times and winning three Gold Glove awards.

"He's definitely more of a Pirate guy," Scott Van Slyke said.

Scott Van Slyke was born in 1986, during his father's last year in St. Louis. Scott said he grew up with the Pirates, spending summer afternoons shagging fly balls during batting practice at old Three Rivers Stadium.

He sounded wistful, almost old, as he recalled that a dozen or so kids would do that before every home game. He pointed to the Dodger Stadium outfield, where no kids — sons of players, or of anyone else — were shagging fly balls.

"Now we've got all these rules," he said, "and they don't want people getting hurt."

Scott Van Slyke is just starting to understand how long the wait has been for Pirates fans. He was 6 when Atlanta's Sid Bream slid home to beat the throw from Barry Bonds, propelling the Pirates on a 21-year odyssey toward that next winning season.

In the last three years, Scott Van Slyke says he has heard all about the Pirates' futility streak — in 2011 and 2012, when late-season collapses replaced the traditional yearlong futility, and this year, when the Pirates smashed the .500 barrier and did not stop en route to the playoffs.

The Pirates played 3,332 games between postseason appearances. Scott Van Slyke played 80 games before he made one, for the revived Dodgers.

"This is pretty cool," he said. "This is something we want to do year in and year out."

If the Pirates beat the Cardinals on Wednesday, the next game in Pittsburgh will be Game 3 of the NLCS. All the Dodgers would line up along the first base line. The public-address announcer would introduce them, one by one, including the one with the last name "Van Slyke."

Would the crowd boo? Wishful thinking, perhaps, but Scott Van Slyke hopes not, or at least not too much.

"I would hope they would feel a little bias toward my dad," Scott Van Slyke said.

"You never know. We're the Dodgers."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

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