The path to the All-Star Game

Friday.jpg

Dragnet’s Joe Friday spent his childhood wanting only to become a
police officer.  His father was on the force and Joe modeled himself
after dad.  Imagine then, this scenario.  Joe Friday goes through
training, earns his badge and, after three months walking the beat in
Los Angeles, decides he wants to become a fireman.

That, loosely, is the story of Chase Lambin’s collegiate life.

“I
was a diehard Longhorn fan, my parents went to Texas, my brother went
to Texas,”  Lambin said.  My baby room had Longhorns all over it. 
Everything I wore growing up had Longhorns on it.”

UT.jpg

Lambin and his family lived on the northwest side of Houston.  Chase played his high
school ball at Cypress Falls High School, an institution which has
produced, among others, Major League pitcher Scott Kazmir and former
Chief Clint Everts.  After 12th grade, Lambin spent two seasons at
Grayson County College in Denison, a stone’s throw from the Oklahoma
border.

The next year, in 2001, Lambin achieved his childhood dream of wearing burnt orange on the field.

“It was great, I was 21 years old, living in Austin, Texas, playing for UT”, Lambin said.  “It was a lot of fun.”

In the middle of the season, though, Lambin was injured and
required surgery to remove the hammate bone from his right hand.  After
the procedure, he never was able to force his way into the starting
lineup.

“I didn’t really play all that much,” Lambin recalled. 
“We had a lot of talent there with Omar Quintanilla and Brandon Fahey, a
couple of future big leaguers that were playing up the middle.  I
didn’t know if I was going to be getting enough at-bats to get noticed.”

With a career in professional baseball as the impetus, Lambin chose
to strike through the top item on his childhood wish list.  With a
Houstonian named Matt Pavlich as his guide, Lambin landed one state to
the east.

“I had a teammate in summer ball that played for
Louisiana-Lafayette and he was always talking about how much fun they
had, how good they were and how they needed a shortstop,” Lambin said.  I went and
met the coaches at Lafayette and fell in love with the whole program
and the way they did things.  I took to them like a duck to water.”

So, Lambin began his tenure as the starting shortstop for the
Ragin’ Cajuns where he learned that the team’s nickname was not
hollow.  Lambin played for coaches named Robichaux, Babineaux and
Simoneaux–“All ending in x”, Lambin points out wryly–and dined on food prepared by UL diehards.

“There’s a cooking club down the right field line,” Lambin said. 
There’s smoke billowing out from the right-field corner.   It’s kinda
like Mardi Gras at the baseball park every game.

Jambalaya.jpg 

The fans even feed the visiting teams the gumbo and etouffee they make.  The
warmth, though, toward fans from a certain school in Louisiana subsided
during Lambin’s season in the Bayou.  The Cajuns beat LSU twice during
the year and traveled to Baton Rouge to face the Tigers in the College
World Series regionals.

“We parked by their tailgating section and all their fans came up
and started shaking our bus screaming ‘tiger bait,'” Lambin said. 
“Both coaches got thrown out and there was so much bad blood that there
were people in the stands with knives pulling them on families.  They
canceled all LSU-Lafayette baseball games for the next six
years.”

LSU won the game, Lambin’s last until he was drafted in the 34th
round by the Mets in June of that year.  He was assigned to Brooklyn of
the New York-Penn League where he played for manager Howard Johnson. 
The next season, Johnson became the hitting coach for the Advanced-A
team in St. Lucie, Florida and used his position to advocate for Lambin.

“I had a really good spring training,” Lambin remembered.  “I was just hoping to go to
low-A but things fell my way to where they had an opening at shortstop
in High-A.  HoJo stuck his neck out for me and said I could play.”

That season, Lambin hit .289 with 49 RBI and played shortstop next
to future Met stalwart David Wright.  The St. Lucie team–which also
included Angel Pagan in center field–won the Florida State League
title over Dunedin’s Blue Jays.

Two years later, Lambin hit .310 with 25 home runs between Double-A
Binghamton and Triple-A Norfolk, but wasn’t invited to Major League
Spring Training with the Mets.  By May 6th of the following season,
Lambin was a .171 Triple-A hitter.

“It was really hard on me,” Lambin, now 30, said.  I put a lot of pressure on myself.  You
start to try to bat .330 with 30 (home runs).  I was so close I could
taste it.  I couldn’t handle being that close and not playing well to
start the season.”

Lambin finished the year in Double-A and was released in Spring
Training of ’07.  That started a four-year span which placed him in
Zebulon, North Carolina, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Japan and now
Syracuse.

“I haven’t been handed anything in my career,” Lambin said.  “As a 34th
rounder, that’s the way it goes, when you get released and re-signed,
that’s the way it goes, when you go to a foreign country, that’s the
way it goes, when you sign as a free agent, that’s the way it goes.”

One can’t help but think that the decision Lambin made to leave his childhood dream behind steeled him for his winding pro career.

———–

Join us tonight for the Chiefs and Yankees at 7:05 PM.  We’ll be on the air at 6:30.

Follow the broadcast on Twitter @ChiefsRadio…..it’s worth it, I promise.

Jason

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