Baseball Baby Names: Hitting all the bases

July 23, 2017 John Kelly

By John Kelly

Nothing quite says summer like a hotdog at the ballpark. But next time you’re in the bleachers, America’s pastime might also give you some naming inspiration. So, grab some peanuts and Cracker Jacks and see if any of these names, taken from baseball greats past and present, hit any home runs for you.


Last names have long made popular choices for given names, often becoming unisex, and Addison Russell—an infielder for the Chicago Cubs who was born Geoffreye—has taken the trend to the big leagues. An English surname meaning “son of Adam,” Addison is a real switch-hitter, batting as the 29th most popular name for girls in the US in 2016.


On the field, Barry is an all-star name, borne by two of baseball’s great players: Barry Bonds, known for his slugging with the San Francisco Giants, and Barry Larkin, who helped the Cincinnati Reds win the 1990 Worlds Series. The name Barry, with its not so obvious Irish roots, ranked in the Top 100 during the 1940–60s, hitting as high as #61 in 1962. It’s the name President Obama went by in his younger days.


Baseball loves nicknames, from GeorgeBabeRuth, Jr. to GeraldBusterPosey, catcher for the San Francisco Giants. In English slang, buster has denoted an “impressive person,” especially of great size or strength, since the 1830s, fitting for the hard-hitting Posey. The slangy Buster has been revived as a full name for their sons in modern times by Ethan Coen, Johnny Lee Miller and Matthew Wolfenden, and is also featured on the TV show Arrested Development.


Cal Ripken Jr., who played for the Baltimore Orioles, holds the record for most consecutive games played: 2,632 in his 21-year-career. Cal is an appealing shortening of Calvin, a name which might hold a record of its own, ranking as a Top 250 US boys names every year since we’ve been keeping stats. Also short for Caleb, Cal was an iconic James Dean character in East of Eden.


The name Derek comes from Theodoric, a Germanic name meaning “ruler of the people.” One of its most famous bearers, Derek Jeter, a onetime big-swinging shortstop, was definitely a ruler of the baseball diamond, winning five World Series with the Yankees in the 1990–2000s. The name Derek peaked just before Jeter’s career took off, as the 50th most popular boy name in 1980 and 1982.


Felix, from the Latin for “happy,” is a currently popular boys’ name all around the West, reaching #247 in the US in 2016. It’s been fruitful in the ballpark, too: Felix Fermin, Felix Hernandez, Felix Mantilla, and Felix Rodriguez have all stepped up to the plate. Gillian Anderson, Elizabeth Banks and Hugh Grant are among the celebs who have chosen it for their sons.


The name Gerrit is a Dutch and Frisian form of Gerhard, a Germanic name meaning “strong with the spear.” Gerrit Cole can definitely throw hard— he pitches for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Popularity-wise, Gerrit is particularly hot in the Netherlands, where it ranked #145 in 2016. Here, it could make a more unusual alternative to Garrett.


Nolan Ryan, hall-of-fame pitcher for the Houston Astros, holds the record in Major League baseball, striking out 5,714 batters in his 27-year career. The Irish surname name Nolan is throwing some fast ones in the US, too, clocking in as 2016’s 65th most popular boy name, and even higher at #11 in France. Nolan, it would seem, was destined for glory, coming from an Irish word meaning “champion.”


A legend of the game and a trailblazer for black players in the sport, Satchel Paige, born Leroy, played for both the Negro and Major Leagues in his storied career. Paige said he earned his nickname from the enterprising way he toted multiple bags working at a train station as a kid. Though rarely used, his nickname name continues to inspire some baseball buffs, as directors Woody Allen and Spike Lee both named children after Satchel— in Lee’s case, his daughter—although the former would change his name to Ronan Farrow.


Looking for a different spin on the name Alexander? Try Xander, as in Aruba-born Xander Bogaerts. The distinctive X of his given name is perfect for his team: the Boston Red Sox. And so is the meaning of the Greek origin of Alexander, “defending man,” for the shortstop position he plays. The name Xander, first spotted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then in Vin Diesel’s XXX, has really upped its presence in the past two decades, coming in at #201 for boys in 2016.


Yogi Berra, the much-quoted and many-hatted Hall-of-Famer, spent most of his career with the New York Yankees. Lawrence Berra earned the nickname Yogi after a friend said he resembled an Indian yogi, or yoga practitioner. Few have taken up Yogi as a given name, but it’s a short jump from there to India-inspire Bodhi, meaning “enlightened” in Sanskrit, which has seen a surprising rise in popularity in recent years: It climbed to #363 in the US in 2016 and is hot in the celebrisphere: Goldie Hawn, Carly Simon and Caitlyn Jenner all have grandsons named Bodhi.


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