Houston Baptist University has hired a new baseball coach, and it’s a familiar name to Houston baseball fans.
The school announced Monday that former Houston Astros star Lance Berkman will be the program’s new baseball coach.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, even before I retired from playing baseball,” Berkman said. “This is kind of a dream come true for me, and I’m just so grateful for the opportunity.
“The opportunity to develop people in their faith, in their education, and on the baseball field – it’s a rare opportunity that combines three things that I’m passionate about,” he said.
“We have always had what’s been known around town as a pretty good baseball team,” said Steve Moniaci, HBU’s Athletic Director. “We want to get beyond that. We want to establish a program that is known regionally and then nationally. With Lance’s help and some others that we think are going to come along shortly, we think we can get there.
“We really do think that, with this hire, we have elevated not just the baseball program, but the whole athletic department, quite frankly.,” Moniaci said.
Berkman starred at Rice University from 1995-97, hitting .385 with 67 home runs and 272 RBI in his time with the Owls, a time when he led the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance, its first College World Series appearance, was named National Player of the Year, and was a unanimous All-America selection. Berkman was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015.
Following his college exploits, Berkman was selected by the Astros with the 16th overall pick in the 1997 draft. Berkman spent most of his major-league career with the Astros from 1999-2010, leading the team to the franchise’s first World Series appearance in 2005. In 2011, Berman won a World Series with the Cardinals, and he also played with the Yankees and Rangers in his MLB career. In his 15 years in the majors, Berkman hit 293 with 366 home runs and 1234 RBI. The six-time All-Star finished in the top 10 in league MVP voting six times in his career.
Berkman was the baseball coach at Second Baptist School from 2016-2019, leading the high school to the TAPPS 4A state championship in 2016, and was an assistant baseball coach at the University of St. Thomas this past season.
The new HBU baseball coach is excited to get started. He says one of the keys to the team’s success will be mining the local talent in the Houston area.
“If you had to pick one city in America – if you just said, ‘Hey there’s one city in all of America and you can only recruit there,’ it would be Houston,” Berkman said. “I mean, the baseball talent in this area is off the charts on the amateur side. We have to do a great job of getting a share of the Houston talent.
“This school is kind of, I think, a sleeping giant in terms of baseball because of the location. We’re a warm-weather city. As I already mentioned, this is the greatest amateur baseball city in the nation. This is a tremendous opportunity here.”
Along with local recruiting, Berkman said one of his top priorities also includes upgrading the program’s facilities, but he did add one caveat.
“I will say that the facilities that are in place (at HBU) are better than we had at Rice when I showed up (as a player in 1995).”
Berkman also wants to consistently beef up HBU’s non-conference schedule.
“My intention is to play Texas, to play A&M, to play Baylor and (Texas) Tech and TCU and all the schools that are sort of hot right now in Texas,” he said. “We want to play those guys. Number one, because I want to beat them. But secondly, I want to be able to say, ‘Hey, we play a legit schedule, and if you want to play against top competition, then come to HBU.’”
Berkman takes over the head coaching position from Jared Moon, who stepped down last week after 16 seasons as HBU’s baseball coach. The Huskies finished with a 14-38 record this past year and last had a winning season in 2017.