For Lance Roenicke, goals include playing for dad
MILWAUKEE -- Lance Roenicke might have more name recognition than most 25th-round Draft picks, but his goal is no different: get to the Major Leagues.
For Roenicke, that could mean joining his dad in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform. While Lance begins his first full professional season, having been drafted by the Brewers last summer out of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Ron Roenicke will start his third season as Milwaukee's manager.
"It's a little more motivation," said the younger Roenicke, 24, who plays the outfield. "Ultimately, if I were able to do that, it'd be an awesome experience for me, and for my dad. So there's always that possibility. I need to take care of my business down here first. He has to keep working up there."
Ron Roenicke played in the Majors for six different teams, so Lance could also add to the list of more than 100 father-son MLB combos. It includes his cousin Josh Roenicke, a pitcher who was claimed off waivers this winter by the Twins, and his uncle Gary, Ron Roenicke's older brother.
The list also includes a number of recent Brewers whose fathers played in the Majors: Tim Dillard, Tony Gwynn Jr., Jerry Hairston Jr. and Bobby Crosby, a non-roster invitee to Milwaukee's upcoming Spring Training camp.
Although they come from a baseball family, Ron hasn't seen many of Lance's games, dating back to high school. Ron Roenicke was busy as an Angels coach before he was Brewers manager, so he made it only to a few games in high school, one in college, and three in 2012 at the home of the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who play about an hour north of Milwaukee. But the two talk regularly during the baseball season.
"I try to talk to my dad almost every day or every night," Lance Roenicke said. "If I'm ever struggling with something, I'll give him a call. It's nice to have him, when he's able to come out here. He can see little things in my swing, or my jumps in the outfield. It's nice to have him here, because he's been around the game a long time and he knows."
Lance sees that one of the many positives of coming from a baseball-centered family has been the transition from college baseball to the professional level.
"I've been around this lifestyle, I know what it takes," he said. "I know it's a grind every day. I've seen it in action. Mentally it probably helped me more than physically."
Lance has had plenty of support in his transition, which all started last June 8, when the Brewers drafted him. He had briefly stopped watching the Draft when his aunt -- his dad's sister -- was the first to send him a congratulatory text message. After that, his roommates ran upstairs to congratulate him.
"It was a pretty cool feeling," said Lance Roenicke.
Thus began a hectic few months for the younger Roenicke, as he went from college to Helena, Mont., for Rookie ball, and then to Wisconsin. In Helena, Roenicke had great numbers in his very minimal at-bats, going 7-for-13, good for a .538 average. After three games, Roenicke was promoted to Class A Wisconsin, where he batted .245 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 42 regular-season games for Timber Rattlers, who went on to win the Midwest League championship.
"I'm blessed I have this opportunity to be here," Roenicke said during the Rattlers' run. "It definitely beats going to class, and then go to practice. It's nice to just focus on baseball."
Roenicke described a laid-back clubhouse, not surprising considering the Timber Rattlers clinched their postseason berth by winning the first-half division title.
"Right away, I came in, and I could see these guys have some energy. I was talking to my dad the other day, and this is probably the best group of guys and teammates I've ever been around and played with. Matt Erickson is the perfect manager for this team. He brings energy, has fun, and enjoys it.
"Everything I really hoped for is here. I'd say the one thing that I have to get used to is the travel. We're on the road a long time."
Roenicke hopes one day that long road leads to Milwaukee, where he can play for his father.