Why are so many Dodgers having babies? 'I think everyone had a great All-Star break'

The Dodgers' Mookie Betts smiles as he celebrates with Max Muncy after hitting a two-run home run
The Dodgers' Mookie Betts, right, smiles as he celebrates with Max Muncy after hitting a two-run home run in Chicago. Betts had just returned from paternity leave and Muncy was poised to start it amid a Dodgers baby boom. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

During his season-opening address at the start of spring training, Dave Roberts likes to go around the room sharing personal-life highlights of the players on his team.

The Dodgers manager will celebrate all the club’s recent newlyweds. He’ll congratulate each of the new parents who had children over the offseason. And he’ll read off the list of players expecting babies at some point in the campaign ahead.

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Usually, that last part can be completed in a few brief moments.

This spring, however, “it was a long meeting,” quipped reliever Evan Phillips.

Indeed, not even a month into the schedule, the prevalence of parenthood has swept across the Dodgers roster in a sudden wave this season.

During the past two weeks, four different players have gone on the paternity list, leaving the team for a few days at a time to return home for the birth of their kids. The new-baby craze isn’t finished yet, either, with Roberts recalling this year’s list of expecting parents being around half-a-dozen deep.

“This is such an outlier of a season,” Roberts, a father of two himself, laughed this week. “I guess that’s what you get with a young team.”


Mookie Betts kicked off the paternity list procession last week, missing two games as his wife, Brianna, gave birth to their second child, Kaj.

“I’ve just been in a hospital room, sleeping in a chair,” Betts said upon returning to the team. “A healthy baby, wife’s good, everybody’s good — can’t ask for much more."

Right as Betts rejoined the team in Chicago last Thursday, Phillips was racing back home after his wife, Elizabeth, went into labor with their firstborn, Beau, well ahead of their expected due date.

“As tired and exhausted as we both were through that process — and nervous and scared because of how early we were, being totally caught off-guard — nothing else mattered beside him and my wife,” said Phillips, who was granted an extra, fourth day to stay home with his family (MLB’s paternity list is usually capped at three days) given his son’s premature arrival.


“Something I experienced within the last week, it’s just that natural instinct, becoming a father,” Phillips said. “It’s really special.”

The Dodgers roster was shuffled again for this week’s series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Phillips’ addition coinciding with a pair of new paternity list departures in Brusdar Graterol and Max Muncy (who are both expected to be back in action Friday when the Dodgers open a weeklong homestand).

“It’s part of life, kids are born every day,” Betts said. “For us, it just happens to be around the same time.”


That much hasn’t been lost on anyone inside the organization or watching from afar, with many doing some easy nine-month math — especially with another former Dodger, Cody Bellinger, also going on the paternity list this week — to reach an apparent conclusion.

“I think everyone had a great All-Star break [last July],” one Dodgers staff member joked.

And while it’s leading to a somewhat complicated April for the Dodgers right now — prompting an atypical roster shuffle from a club that had only six players land on the paternity list during the past three seasons combined — having so many new dads in the building could pay dividends in the long run.

“It kind of gives you a different perspective on your teammates,” Phillips said. “You learn more about their family. You learn more about their wife. What they’re going through. What their struggles are. What they’re excited about.”


“Plus,” the 28-year-old right-hander chuckled, “it’s a good checks-and-balances system. Like, ‘Hey, where are you guys at right now? Are you experiencing this as well?’ Things like that.”

That clubhouse support could be important — with the constant travel and everyday nature of a baseball season creating unique stresses for new parents.

Phillips said many bullpen conversations have revolved around fatherhood, with left-hander Caleb Ferguson likely up next in the paternity list rotation.

“We get to experience it together,” Phillips said. “And it’s the first for a lot of us, too.”

Experienced fathers such as Betts, meanwhile, have a wealth of suddenly valuable knowledge to share with the team.


“You don’t get good sleep, or the baby was up all night, then you gotta come to the field and play,” he said. “Not looking for excuses or sympathy, but when you don’t get a good night’s sleep, your day at work — maybe sitting behind the computer, ringing somebody up at the cash register, whatever it is — it’s just not as productive. Ours is just baseball.”

Asked whether doing it all a second time will be any easier, Betts flashed a sly grin.

“I don’t know yet, because I haven’t gotten to spend much time with them yet,” he said. “But I’m gonna assume no.”

This time, at least, he’ll have teammates going through it along with him — a paternity brigade for one another to lean on as they balance their responsibilities as players and new fathers for the rest of the season.


“It’s kind of cool to have a big wave come at once, to experience it together,” Phillips said. “To transition into parenthood with a group of guys we’re all tight with.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.