Catching up with ... Astros slugger Mike Lamb
HOUSTON -- Do you know the first player in Astros history to hit a home run in the World Series?
If you said Mike Lamb, come to the head of the class.
Lamb was an integral member of the 2005 National League champion Astros, initially taking over at first base in early May when Jeff Bagwell went down following shoulder surgery (Lance Berkman later played mostly first once he returned from a knee injury). Lamb, acquired in a trade prior to the ’04 season, played four years in Houston (’04-07) and posted an .806 OPS in 487 games with the Astros, hitting double-digit homers each season.
Lamb, a left-handed bat who played the corner infield, left field, second base and even caught during his big league career, had his best season in 2004, hitting .288 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs. He batted just .236 in ’05 but hit the first Fall Classic homer in Astros history when he took José Contreras of the White Sox deep in the second inning of Game 1 in Chicago.
After spending time with the Twins (2008), Brewers (’08) and Marlins (’10), Lamb retired and returned home to Southern California with his wife, Teresa, to raise their family, which includes a 15-year-old son, 13-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old daughter.
Lamb took some time to talk to MLB.com about his life and career:
MLB.com: What’s life like for Mike Lamb these days?
Mike Lamb: Between the three kids and my wife and me trying to play zone defense and get everybody to everywhere when we’re the only two that drive, it's very challenging and we’re busy. In terms of me, since I’ve stopped playing, I’ve coached travel ball on my son’s team. I’m still involved, though I don’t have my own team anymore, but I’ll make as many practices as I can, which quite honestly is most of them, unless I have a dance, softball or baseball conflict.
I’m doing that and my wife, Teresa, is working. … She’s doing really well and really good at her job. I’m not going to lie, the income helps, but me having played and her working allows me to be at home. I’m a stay-at-home husband. … I’m very blessed to play as long as I did and make as much money as I did so I can be home to do all the carpooling and all that good stuff. I’m very lucky.
MLB.com: When you’re around your son’s friends and were helping to coach, were you the cool dad because you played in the big leagues?
Lamb: What’s hard is YouTube came into existence at the very end of my playing days, so when the kids -- and I can’t believe I’m going to say this -- you tell the kids at the travel program, "This is Coach Mike, he played in the big leagues for eight years," they kind of look at you funny. And then their dads hear it, and sure enough, they Google "Mike Lamb" and one of the first things that comes up is Gary Matthews Jr. robbing me of a home run. They come back and they’re like, "Oh my gosh, you got robbed by Gary Matthews Jr.” It isn’t like, "Oh man, you had a great career, look at all the highlights you see." It’s, "You got robbed!’” I constantly get reminded of that play.
MLB.com: Yes, I was going to ask you about that. That’s still the most amazing catch I’ve seen in person. Did you know the Rangers made a bobblehead about it last year?
Lamb: I didn’t know that happened. Look, it doesn’t bother me in the least. I guess it does a little bit. It’s a bummer. It probably cost me some money in arbitration that year. I used to make the joke, "Hey, as long as they run the tape back far enough, and you can see it’s me hitting the ball ... it’s all good." That comes up a lot.
MLB.com: So what does your son think of dad’s career?
Lamb: I want him to forge his own path, you know? I’m never going to be able to stop everybody from saying, "Oh, he’s only playing because of his dad," but whatever he gets out of the game I want him to earn it. And quite honestly, at the same age he is way better than me at the same age. I don’t know how that’s going to play. Nobody would have guessed I would have made it to the big leagues. I don’t know where his journey is going to end, but the same age it’s not even close. He’s earning it on his own.
MLB.com: You played four years for the Rangers, but got to the Astros just in time for two of their best seasons in history to that point, in 2004 and ’05. How much do you still cherish those years, including the ’05 World Series?
Lamb: The Astros went farther in the playoffs when I got there. Now it just kind of coincided with [Roger] Clemens and [Andy] Pettitte (laughs). I loved my time in Houston. Two of my kids were born during that time. I loved it. It was a great dynamic. You had veterans in Bagwell, [Craig] Biggio, [Brad] Ausmus, Berkman, and a bunch of us with Adam [Everett], [Roy] Oswalt, [Brad] Lidge, [Dan] Wheeler and Morgan [Ensberg]. … I think there were six of us who had their first child in Houston, all within six months of each other.
You had two dynamics at work, and we all got along. You had the older guys and the younger guys, and the younger guys were going through the same thing at the same time in terms of their family life. It was pretty cool. It was a pretty good dynamic, and it worked really well on the field and off the field. I look back and consider myself an Astro even though I came up with the Rangers and came up with a couple of other teams. I think for me, personally and professionally, the most impactful time I had playing was in Houston. I loved everything about it.