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Lance Berkman

Lance Berkman

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Lance Berkman Player Bio

Position(s):
1B, LF, OF, RF, CF, DH
Nicknames:
Big Puma, Fat Elvis
Born:
February 10, 1976
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Left
Height:
6' 1"
Weight:
230 lbs
Major League Debut:
7-16-1999 with HOU

Berkman was born in Waco, Texas. He graduated from Canyon High School in New Braunfels, Texas in 1994.

He then attended Rice University playing on the Owls baseball team, where he was named the 1997 National College Player of the Year, playing for the legendary Wayne Graham, as well as named a first team All-America by Collegiate Baseball Magazine, Baseball America and The Sporting News. He was invited to visit the White House and dine with President Clinton along with the rest of the Baseball America honorees.

Throughout college, he batted a collective .385 with 67 home runs and 272 RBI. His 41 home runs in 1997 ranked third-most in NCAA history. That year he also made the all-time record book in RBI (2nd-134), slugging percentage (6th-1.031) and total bases (4th-263) while leading the Rice Owls to their first College World Series appearance.

Minor League Career

After the Astros drafted Berkman, the team assigned him to play with their Class A Advanced Florida State League affiliate, Kissimmee. In only 53 games, he hit .293 with 12 HR and 35 RBI. In 1998, his second minor league season, he was promoted to Double-A Jackson. His potential was beginning to show, as he hit .306 and clubbed 24 HR with 89 RBI over 122 games for manager Jim Pankovitz. The Astros granted him a mid-season promotion to Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. He played 17 games in New Orleans, and 1998 would prove to be his last full season in the minor leagues. In 1999, Berkman was midway through a great season in New Orleans when he was called up to the parent club, the Houston Astros. Prior to the promotion, he had been hitting .323 with 8 HR and 49 RBI through 64 games.

Major League Career

Houston Astros
1999-2004

Throughout his entire high school, college, and minor league career, Berkman played first base. Because Jeff Bagwell was already entrenched at first, Berkman was shifted to the outfield to get into the starting lineup. His first stint with the Astros ended with 34 games played. He was demoted during the offseason for seasoning.

The demotion proved brief, however; 31 games into the 2000 season, Houston again promoted Berkman. Moving from left field to right field, he hit .297, with 21 HR and 67 RBI. This firmly established him in the Astros lineup, and he has been a starter ever since. In 2001, Berkman hit .331 (4th in the NL), posted a .430 On-base percentage (OBP) (5th in the NL), and drove in 126 runs (7th in the league). He also scored 110 runs and hit 34 home runs, while his 55 doubles led the league. 2001 also marked his first All-Star appearance (he would repeat in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008) and he was 5th in Most Valuable Player voting.

2002 saw his batting average drop to .292, although he kept his OBP high at .405. His power output increased also, resulting in 42 home runs. Berkman scored 106 runs and drove in 128, good enough to lead the league. He made his second All-Star appearance and was third in the NL in the Most Valuable Player voting.

In 2003, Berkman's batting average dipped to .288, although his OBP was still high at .412. He hit 25 home runs, and drove in 93 runs, scoring 110. In the field, he played every game in left field, moving to center field once. In May 2003, Berkman astounded teammates when he admitted he did not know what a fielder's choice was.

In 2004, Berkman's average increased to .316, and his OBP was .450, having walked 127 times. He hit 30 home runs, drove in 106, and scored 104 runs. He also hit 40 doubles and appeared in 160 games, the most so far in his career for a single season. Berkman made the All-Star team, his third All-Star appearance, and was winner of the 2004 Home Run Derby with 51 homers. In May, his .785 slugging percentage and 24 RBI won him the National League Player of the Month for the first time in his career. Defensively, Berkman split 2004 between left and right field.

2005-2010 Seasons

Berkman signed a six-year, $85 million deal in March 2005. Berkman moved to first base while Jeff Bagwell was injured. He ended the 2005 season with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs. In Game 4 of the 2005 National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Berkman hit a grand slam in the 8th inning. That brought the score to 6–5 in favor of the Braves, but the game was tied in the next inning on a two-out solo home run by Brad Ausmus. The teams then battled for 9 more innings in what became the longest game in Major League Baseball playoff history, with the Astros eventually winning the game (and the series) in the bottom of the 18th inning on a Chris Burke home run. Burke had replaced Berkman as a pinch runner in the 10th. In the 2005 World Series, Berkman's first, the Astros were swept by the Chicago White Sox in four games, though Berkman compiled a .385 average with two doubles. His six RBIs during that series were the most of any of the Astros' hitters.

On Mother's Day, May 14, 2006, Berkman was one of more than 50 hitters who brandished a pink bat to benefit the Breast Cancer Foundation. On September 13, 2006, Berkman became only the second switch hitter in Major League history to hit 40 or more homers in multiple seasons, with Mickey Mantle being the first.

During the 2006 season, Berkman hit 45 home runs and had 136 RBIs, breaking the Astros single season record, which was set by Jeff Bagwell in 1997 (135). He also had a .315 batting average, an on-base percentage of .420, as well as a slugging percentage of .621. He also hit a career high 5 home runs from the right side of the plate. He finished third in the MVP voting behind Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols.

Berkman started the 2007 season in a bit of a slump, batting .261, well below his career average, but rebounded for a strong second half of the season. Berkman finished the 2007 season with a .278 batting average, 34 home runs and 102 RBIs, along with 7 stolen bases.

Lance Berkman with the Astros 2009Berkman started the 2008 season batting well above .385 through April, won the NL Player of the Month in May and two separate Player of the Week awards, one which he went 29-32 (batted .906) with 6 home runs, including a McCovey Cove splash landing. At the All-Star break, he was in the NL's top four in batting average, with 22 home runs, and was on pace for 130+ RBIs. However, despite the rest of the team picking up steam behind the likes of Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Hunter Pence, and Ty Wigginton's rebound second half, Berkman's individual performance dipped significantly, and by season's end, he batted .312, with 29 home runs (7 of which were right-handed, setting a new career high), and 106 RBI. Berkman was fifth in the voting for the 2008 NL MVP award, behind Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Ryan Braun, and Manny Ramirez.

Berkman hit his 300th home run against Arizona Diamondbacks starter Jon Garland on June 13, 2009.

New York Yankees

Lance Berkman with the YankeesOn July 31, 2010, Berkman was traded to the New York Yankees for minor leaguers Jimmy Paredes and Mark Melancon.

On October 7, Berkman hit a solo home run in the top of the fifth inning to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Minnesota Twins.

The Yankees announced on October 27 that the club has declined to exercise their option for Berkman for 2011.

St. Louis Cardinals

Berkman signed a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2011 season.

On April 13th, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Lance hit a grand slam to help with a 15-5 victory

Coaching

On May 11, 2009, Lance announced that after his major league career, he would like to coach for the University of Texas at Austin's baseball team even though he attended Rice University. Lance, who does not have a college degree, would have to return to school and complete three more semesters to earn his Business degree with a minor in Sports Management. Berkman fully expects that current coach Augie Garrido will not retire or leave until 2013 or 2014 which he feels will be around when he will retire from baseball. "I know Garrido's going to coach four or five more years. I figured that might dovetail nicely with the end of my career."

Significant statistics

    Five time All-Star (2001–02, 2004, 2006, 2008)
    12th among active players in batting average (.303)
    5th among active players (25th all-time) in on-base percentage (.416)
    12th among active players (25th all-time) in slugging percentage (.561)
    7th among active players (17th all-time) in OPS (.983)
    Led NL in doubles (55) in 2001.
    Led NL in RBI (128) in 2002.
    National League Player of the Month in May 2004 and May 2008.
    National League Player of the Week for April 21–27 and May 5–11 in 2008; April 11-17 and April 25-May 1 in 2011.
    Lance Berkman holds the National League record for most single season RBIs (136) as a switch hitter.
    Holds the record for most home runs in day games at Minute Maid Park (147).
    Holds the record for most home runs at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati for an opposing player with 20 in his career.

Personal Life

Berkman and his wife Cara live in Houston with their four daughters. Berkman has been very outspoken about his religious beliefs throughout his career. Berkman uses his position as a professional athlete to discuss his religious beliefs with others. He told The 700 Club in May 2007: "What you’re running after, what you’re trying to find will not provide you with any lasting fulfillment. The only place you can find that is Jesus Christ. It’s in the service of God you’ll find that lasting fulfillment."

Nicknames

He is most popularly known as "The Big Puma". Before the 2006 season started, in an interview with a local Houston sports radio station, Lance joked "I'm more like a puma so I'm not sure why people call me Fat Elvis." The show's hosts, John Granato and Lance Zierlein, ran with the moniker and Houston fans and media latched onto "The Big Puma." When questioned further, Berkman explained the nickname is simply logical. "Agile, athletic, sleek ... all the things that describe my game," he said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. With his outstanding start in 2008, this nickname also became known on a national level. That same year, a Lance Berkman fan club calling themselves "The Little Pumas" emerged. During Berkman's long tenure with the Astros, they could be seen wearing puma costumes and foam puma paws at most Astros home games near the Conoco Pump in left-center field. The group became relatively well-known among Astros fans, as they were shown often during Astros broadcasts on Fox Sports Houston.

Berkman was also one of the Astros' "Killer B's" in the mid-2000s, along with Jeff Bagwell, Carlos Beltran, Craig Biggio, Chris Burke, and Brad Ausmus.

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