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Like life…professional baseball has plenty of powerless situations

May 18, 2011

Laguna Hills, CA – On this night before my son John Lamb (1-2, 3.12) takes the ball for his 50 professional baseball start for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in Tulsa, OK at ONEOK Field against the Tulsa Drillers, I am reminded of many things unsaid during the past couple of weeks. One thing I’m sure of is just like life…professional baseball has plenty of powerless situations during a player’s career. There are many more conditions not worth concern versus those that can be controlled. This can be shared across most sports for sure but maybe just a little more so in the failure base game of baseball. Maintaining vigilance against the items that can be harnessed is much more critical than spending one minute of concern about situations and decisions made by others. Teammates, conditions and opportunity are three areas worth mentioning with a topic of powerless challenges in professional baseball.

The Kansas City Royals have every reason to smile now with all that has been recently said about their farm system and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals are a prime example of this level of talent and respect within baseball. The Naturals stay near the top of the standings for team reasons and our family is continuously grateful to have their son on roster and take the ball every five days to the mound. The defending Texas League Championship flag at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR adds no mystery that all teams are going to continue every effort to take it away. The human reason of any team sport is engrained with some powerless situations during competition. Add a failure basis to the game and you can have volatile encounters with athletes, management, coaches, staff or fans when everyone wants to win. Teammates have good games, bad games and just average games but the most important thing to understand is simply pick up your team by simply doing your own job. Everything else falls into place when players limit their concerns to their own actions while playing the game. John Lamb is fully aware of his team role to throw strikes and field his position. As sure as the pain in my back, he wishes he could still swing the lumber, or lay down a bunt, to contribute but those thoughts only stay in his dreams now. Expect nothing less during the Naturals’ Thursday night work against the Drillers, Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies organization from the left-hander trying to help his team win another game. Teammates open doors to long-lasting friendships and blessed experiences shared by only a select few during a professional journey.

All the levels of professional baseball have been affected by weather during the 2011 season. More games have been postponed or delayed this year than ever before and many have influenced the general routines of players and pitchers. This is obviously not worth any ounce of concern. It is merely another perfect example of the necessary adjustments that professional baseball players have to make on a regular basis during a season. Work still has to be completed to support condition and rhythm of the game to compete with or without the skies cooperating. Most if not all professional level organizations have been challenged beyond belief to work consistently this spring. This year has brought more awareness of meteorology than ever before around minor league ballparks to decrease damages. Playing in the diverse weather conditions in the country is part of the development needed by ball-players. The sooner they can figure out the challenges associated with climate the quicker they can move on too much more important hurdles surrounding the game.

The basic opportunity of playing professional baseball comes with talent at various ages for young men. Once a player signs that contract the opportunity for advancement comes from forces never worth concern. Show up, work, develop, execute and repeat the process for as long as your locker has gear. Being a good citizen in the communities you play and good teammate is foremost but John Lamb has never missed a day around a ballpark to, if nothing else, just watch and learn from other’s success, or failure. Every day around the yard can offer a valuable experience to any baseball player that uses the time wisely for future opportunity in the game. Sure the goal by most that have ever played the game is to be a “big leaguer” but statistics point towards far more never reaching that goal. Some players will endure hundreds, or thousands, of games during their careers and every one can offer enormous value being involved. My son is still in the hundreds at this stage of his early professional baseball life. Conversations with the 20 year-old have confirmed his continued study of the game to help him do his job. Do your job and with a little luck you might get the chance to take another step up the ladder to the goal. Opportunity in professional baseball comes naturally by value of a player’s action.

No more continued attempts to discuss powerless situations around life and the game of baseball or every facet of the Naturals recent games in the Texas League. A clear focus is on the fact my son will take another small step toward a tiny milestone in a professional baseball career. Tomorrow’s game against the Tulsa Drillers in a Texas League contest will be his 50th of his young career. The last few starts by John Lamb have been better than the first couple to start the season but he knows there is plenty room for improvement. Very rarely does my son show that he is fully satisfied with any performance during a game, so I’m not surprised with his humility for the last couple of starts with the Double-A level affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Our lives continue to be blessed thru our associations with professional baseball and plenty sure tomorrow will be another exciting memory of this journey.

Patiently wait

April 24, 2011

Photo credit - Anthony Reyes

Laguna Hills, CA – The Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, has been forced to postpone the last couple of games by means of weather. The entire Midwest has coped with the same conditions of miserable weather and an unusual amount of tornadoes also. My wife Colleen assured me sometime ago that Spring has always spawned plenty of twisters thru the Midwest, thereby the reason it has been labeled tornado alley. Unfortunately, John Lamb and fellow teammates are right in the thick of tornado alley during this early part of a full-season schedule in the minor leagues. John should have been set to pitch tomorrow if the Naturals had not postponed the last two games of their home-stand, but for now we patiently wait for the news of his next appearance on the mound.

For a variety of reasons I have decided to wait for a few days following his starts to post about his performance in the Texas League part of his professional baseball career. There are plenty of other competent accounts of the Naturals games which discuss the results and highlights for the Royals farm system. No need for a sometimes emotional Dad to jump on the computer following his starts and ramble about the details. For now I will simply wait for a few days following his starts before I post about his performance.

Whenever possible I continue to chart his games with a spreadsheet that I designed. The chart allows me to discuss details with John when we talk about his recent work on the hill. The charting system is really more for me and not my son during his baseball career, but it does allow for some intriguing conversation with my son on occasion about his work while trying to get outs for his team.

John Lamb (0-1, 5.56) picked up his first loss of the 2011 season during the third start of the year for the Naturals against the Corpus Christi Hooks, Double-A team of the Houston Astros organization, in the coastal town of Texas. The following details reflect most of the notes taken during the game that we managed to see on MiLB.tv from home.

Innings pitched – 4.2
Batters faced – 21
First pitch strikes – 12
Total pitches – 80
Strikes thrown – 51
Ground ball outs – 4
Fly ball outs – 5
Pick offs – 1
Strike outs – 5
Walks – 1 (intentional)
Hit by pitch – 1
Earned runs – 4
Hits – 5
Home runs – 1

Sure I’m aware that most of the statistics noted are available through various sites on the Internet, but I’ve always taken an active set of notes for every game my son has ever played. It has become much easier during his professional baseball career, since he no longer plays a position when not on the mound and the fact he only pitches every five days or so. Seeing him throw on our computer kept a constant tingle of joy while watching him go about his business. I was elated to hear he bumped 94 on the radar guns which only confirms the fact John is feeling better from the Spring discomfort noted by the media.

The current weather situation in the region has offered more rest between starts and has the household on edge with news from the region about the tornadoes running rampant. Not only does my wonderful wife have family and friends living in the St. Louis area but with John in the area during this assignment with the Kansas City Royals we have an added sense of concern about the devastating weather. We patiently wait to hear the news of his next start which now appears to be set for Wednesday afternoon in Springfield, MO. John Lamb should have a familiar face in the crowd during the next series since a good friend and Associate Scout for Arizona, Tony Piazza, lives nearby.

Time for some MiLB.tv

April 19, 2011

Laguna Hills, CA – Today the family and friends of John Lamb will get the chance to see him pitch against the Corpus Christi Hooks (3-8), Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, at Whataburger Field in Texas. It’s not everyday during a minor league baseball career that family and friends get to see coverage of a player’s performance. Timing and distance will typically interfere with most if not all games during a professional baseball season for me to actually see my son throw during a game. Rest assured I will be puckered in a chair near the computer for the 7:05PM CT start time for some MiLB.tv coverage of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (7-4), Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, Texas League game.

Photo credit - Justin White

Amazingly my night leading up to the third start of the season for my son was restful. Not a normal occurrence for this anxious Dad of a professional baseball prospect but I am grateful for the unusual solid night of sleep. Unable to articulate the emotions that lead up to John Lamb starts. The overwhelming sense of excitement, pride and just being anxious can create an obtuse day of research and work while waiting for the game.

A pleasant conversation with John, the day following his last start, revealed the same young man who is excited about the professional baseball journey which allows him to travel to new places and meet new people around this great game. John seemed genuinely thrilled with a chance to pitch in Corpus Christi, TX for the first time in his career and adamant about feeling good during the early stages of the season.

Our family has not seen John pitch in a televised game during his minor league assignments since the 2009 season while in the Pioneer League. It’s really the little things like today which can create a special experience around the Lamb household. Tonight the Naturals and John Lamb (0-0, 4.05) are set to go against the Hooks and Jonnathan Aristil (0-1, 3.86) in the Southern coastal community of Corpus Christi on a television feed from MiLB.tv and we will be intently tuned in for this Texas League event.

Lamb lost some control

April 15, 2011

Laguna Hills, CA – Yesterday’s professional baseball start by John Lamb (0-0, 4.05) was not stellar by one standard alone. Simply too many walks affected the second performance of the season for my son by limiting innings of work. Free passes to first base can destroy any outing on the mound and somehow Lamb and teammates managed to cut the damage during his 44th start in pro ball. The game was extremely hard to digest not only while Lamb lost some control but also the result of the late inning loss by the Northwest Arkansas Naturals to the San Antonio Missions.

Photo credit - John Owen

No excuse other than the simple lack of execution to throw strikes. The final line for the Thursday night effort was really not as bad as could have been. The 3.2 innings of work was just shy of the 75 pitch count allowance to start the game. John Lamb allowed 1 ER, 3 H, 5 BB, 1 K and managed to pick-off 2 Missions’ base runners which obviously helped limit the damages of not throwing enough strikes. He faced 17 hitters to record the 11 outs with 73 pitches and 35 for strikes. While John endured some sub par numbers during this past start, I’m confident something can be drawn from the experience and credited towards a positive learning experience.

The phone exploded with texts and calls from all over with genuine concern about John’s performance. Personally, I have no concern over the numbers during the early start of the minor league season. Statistics will get better in 5 days, get worse or move sideways. My son will make the adjustments through hard work to regain the form that many have seen, or expect.

The Kansas City Royals, staff and many of the top prospects are under tremendous pressure to produce within the highly touted farm as advertised by many baseball media outlets. Pressure is simply a part of professional baseball and the successful players learn how to manage and channel the insistence on a daily basis. It really can be a tricky predicament in the world of sports. The quickest way to remove some weight is to simply execute and win. However, the more consistently you perform during development may even ignite some panic when you stray.

My son will have better days during his professional baseball career and possibly much worse than start #44 before he takes off the uniform. Taking the ball every five days to try to help his team win is primary focus in the mind of John Lamb. He is fully aware of the need to control and command his pitches to help his team try to win ballgames.

It is very hard to take the results of any single baseball game to serious with weather, earthquakes, hunger and poverty spread throughout the country and world. There really are much more pressing issues to concern ourselves with during our rough times.

Notes and comments from fans around the minor league ballparks confirm one of my greatest satisfactions knowing that John Lamb continues to embrace the fans of the game during his special opportunity to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals organization. It makes me extremely proud when I hear that my son has placed another smile on the face of a baseball fan.

44th Professional baseball start

April 14, 2011

Laguna Hills, CA – Today my son John Lamb (0-0, 6.00) will toe the rubber for his 44th professional baseball start of his career since signing with the Kansas City Royals organization out of Laguna Hills High School back in 2008. We are obviously excited for any day that John gets to pitch and today is no different. Based on a conversation earlier this week my son has indicated the club has given him more pitches for his assignment against the San Antonio Missions, Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.

Photo credit - Colleen Lamb

The one thing that I’m very proud of, other than the obvious, is the fact that John has never missed a start during any professional baseball season with the Royals organization. Even with the limited number of pitches during the last performance, imposed by the club due to a slight strain during Spring training, Lamb has been successful with taking the ball every five days for his team. With limited opportunity as a starting pitcher in professional baseball it is very important to be ready for each start.

Last night served as a typical restless night for this Dad of a professional baseball player. Under the circumstances that my son has been deemed a prospect by various media outlets really has no bearing on the somewhat silly fate before my son starts a game. I have experienced certain things for many years now leading up to the first pitch of any baseball game. Anxiety, restlessness and a growling stomach are common place when I know my son is pitching.

These commonalities before my son’s starts, or performances, are not likely to change anytime soon with the amount of attention given the Royals farm system. Even with my long time association around the game of baseball and current scouting responsibility with the Florida Marlins my fatherly tendencies remain difficult to suppress around any professional baseball starts by John Lamb.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals (5-1) start their first road trip of the season today at 8:05pm ET in San Antonio, TX. John Lamb and the rest of the Naturals will try to continue the winning ways as the reigning Texas League champs. The Naturals have gotten off to a great start thru the opening season home-stand and now it’s the first time to produce on the road. The next couple of hours will be difficult leading up to the 44th professional baseball start for John Lamb.

* Catch great Texas League baseball all season long with the Naturals Radio Network, on our flagship station, ESPN 92.1 the Ticket! Over 115 of the Naturals’ 140 games will be broadcast on ESPN 92.1 the Ticket*, with Naturals’ broadcaster Steven Davis calling the action.

Simple emotions

April 9, 2011

Laguna Hills, CA – Not uncommon to go for days before we hear from John Lamb during his routines around professional baseball. Although I did receive a series of texts from him following his first start this past Friday night from Springdale, AR, I realize that it could be another few days before timing allows a conversation over the phone. There are simple emotions associated with being a dad of a professional baseball prospect. Joy, sadness and content are the primary feelings related to the peaks and valleys of sports at all levels of competition.

Last night’s work for John Lamb (0-0, 6.00) with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, was a prime example of the emotions a parent goes through during their kids performance. He faced a total of 14 San Antonio Missions and threw 12 first pitch strikes to those hitters. John came out the gates throwing strikes and managed to strike-out two during his three innings of work, first and last batters faced, before surrendering the ball to the Naturals bull-pen due to his predetermined early season pitch count.

Lamb finished his first start of the season with 63 pitches, 39 strikes, 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 strike-outs, 0 home-runs and did not cause into the decision. John had three ground ball outs and three fly ball outs to go with one pick-off of a Missions runner to account for the outs recorded. The Naturals pulled off an extra inning walk-off style win off the bat of Nick Van Stratten in the 11th for the home town fans.

Photo credit - Colleen Lamb

All three innings of work by my son incorporated the three common emotions and for now it is just a matter of waiting for a call to further discuss details of his first game start of the 2011 professional baseball season. No news is really good news for the Lamb family while John spends many days away from home chasing his dream.

Celebrate the Minor League Opening Day

April 7, 2011

Laguna Hills, CA – Similar to the doves out in the back yard trees the left coast family plan to stay close to home to celebrate Opening Day of another Minor League season. It may sound a little crazy to the average fan of baseball, but we obviously have a special attachment to the professional level of the game. Even though my son is not scheduled to pitch today we still embrace the official start to his season based on the simple fact for a genuine shared love of the game throughout the household. John Lamb enters his third start of a full-season assignment in professional baseball with the Kansas City Royals after signing his first contract in June 2008 immediately after the draft.

Photo credit - James Lamb

First time my son will not be the Opening Day starter for his team in professional baseball and likely not to be the last before he is done playing. During a phone call with my son a couple of nights ago John seemed to be in great spirits for the start of the season and happy to be the Friday night starter at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR. We talked briefly about his Kauffman stadium appearance on April 2 against fellow farm-hands on the Omaha Storm Chasers, Triple-A affiliate for the Royals. He had nothing but fantastic things to share about the experience and was truly touched by the warm ovation as he left the mound in the third inning. His focus now is clearly the season ahead and helping his team win games.

Today the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, home and season opener against the San Antonio Missions, Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres at 6:00PM C.T. from Arvest Ballpark will start the quest of repeating the Texas League Championship run from last year. John Lamb and many fellow teammates from the 2010 Texas League Championship roster will make every effort to succeed on the field, I’m sure. Of course, I have yet to meet any person around baseball that pronounced their desire to lose ballgames. Everyone associated with professional baseball wants to win the difference is talent, work, execution and a dash of luck.

The Lamb’s plan to stay close to the house today for our personal celebration of the 2011 Minor League Opening Day celebration. We will simply embrace the fact my son is still living his dream of playing professional baseball. The fact that John Lamb has been placed on the Major League Baseball Top 50 Prospects for the 2011 season really has zero impact on the household tendencies. A recent surge of media attention on my son’s professional baseball career has only added to the level of local communications we experience around town. Since John is a pitcher we really only stay close to home on these special days, or when he takes the ball to the mound. The official announcement of pitching rotation with John throwing tomorrow gives us back to back days of excitement to follow the Naturals start of the season.

The baseball season continues to bring out multiple feelings around our household but Opening Day games and ceremonies remind us all of our true love for the game. Our special experiences are true blessings for any family that really loves the great game of baseball.

Largely abandoned Spring training camps

March 30, 2011

Arizona and Florida – All thirty Major League Baseball teams and organizations have broken free from their respective Spring training facilities to embark on the 2011 regular season. Some teams open the season tomorrow while others begin on Friday. With all big leaguers gone some of the full-season minor league affiliate players have largely abandoned Spring training camps also for a brief stop home in route to their assignments at various levels.

The Royals have a special assignment for their Omaha Storm Chasers and Northwest Arkansas Naturals teams this coming Saturday at Kauffman Stadium after the second game of the series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Triple-A and Double-A teams will square off in the big house for the staff and fans. John Lamb and fellow teammates will be boarding planes the next couple of days to Kansas City for their work in front of the zealous Royals fans more than ready to see the team win at the major league level. My gut tells me that the Kansas City fans will see large improvements from the most recent past. Championships are in the near future for the Kansas City Royals organization provided they all stay on track with the plan by the management and coaching staff.

Albeit true that the Royals will need to grind out a full season of solid baseball to gain back confidence of some. Many like the Lamb family simply hold on to a special Royals relationship with restless desire to see the organization win throughout the entire system of player development. Winning is and always will be contagious and the recent success by some of the Royals youth in the minor league system should lower the blood pressure of even the most die-hard Royals fan. Good times are ahead and could be closer than most think.

The best thing about this time of the professional baseball season is no matter what favorite team hangs on the hat rack we can all say we share first place to start the year. Surely the 162 game schedule has a tendency to be a roller coaster for the avid fan of most baseball clubs but at least we can all brag about our favorite team at the start of the season. Tomorrow the Royals are in first with the other American League Central Division teams and nobody can take that away. All of the mostly uninhabited spring training camps in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues have given us the realization that the full-season of professional baseball is here and likely to send many fans on a wild ride during the next 7 to 8 months.

All about the experience

March 26, 2011

Laguna Hills, CA – There are many families, friends and associates connected to professional baseball players. Some have more frequency than others during their own special experiences with these young men. No matter how few minutes, hours, or days occur during our attachments with these paths, it’s really all about the experience that makes them special. Surely there are thousands of unique stories to be told about being linked to a professional baseball player, but for me any moment I can spend around my son John Lamb near a ballpark I am in a very happy place despite my high level of physical pain and discomfort.

Photo credit - Justin White

Thursday, I endured a very long day of last-minute travel to get my first snap shot view of my son’s third Spring training with the Kansas City Royals. Taking a bus was truly the most responsible method of travel under my current situation but extremely difficult. Emotionally worth every second of happiness at the Kansas City Royals facility in Surprise, Arizona during a simulated game but physically still paying the price. Sure the results on the field were nice to see for the first time this season, but watching my son live his dream in a professional uniform can not be fully articulated.

A steady urge to grin comes from sincere joy of knowing that my son is continuing his journey with an open-minded approach, respect and humility. The occasional article I find, or has been forwarded, about John doesn’t just make me smile about the progress of his baseball career but at times can bring tears to my eyes over his statements. I’m obviously very proud of many things said about my son playing baseball but clearly the affable label pinned on my son, by Patricia La Bella from Orange County High School Sports and the Examiner.com while writing about professional baseball players from the Orange County area, hits close to my heart. It really makes me proud that he continues to embrace the attention thru his entire opportunity to play the game with approachability towards all.

The game and business of baseball can be cruel in an instant to any aspiring talent from all the obvious variables. How a player controls most of the obstacles will greatly impact their value to the game and it really does make me extremely happy when I get reports of his warm and sincere personality from complete strangers, but those that experience professional baseball with open eyes and the willingness to learn can and will go a very long way around this great game. Only control the variables you can and never worry about those you can’t was the general rule of advice given to my son navigating the early stages of his career.

Photo credit - James Lamb

My perception of Thursday morning’s work by John was good overall but really just another long day at the yard for my son. Got a chance to grab some video on the Flip camera, download a flash card from his long time friend Justin White with lots of pictures, have some breakfast with Andy Shaw, his agent with Paragon Sports International, and take in a little Arizona sun. While my son and his fellow Royals hands complete their Spring training assignments we stand by with anticipation for John Lamb toeing the slab again.

I realize some accounts will be good, some might be bad and others will just be okay during the many months ahead. Sure the results are important to advance a career in baseball but the real important accounts come from within the organization to compete at the highest level. We remain forever appreciative towards the Royals organization for all the special experiences along this jaunt. John Lamb is merely one of thousands of other professional players in baseball working towards the big leagues. With all the staggering statistics available which clearly point towards the failure rate involved with these dreams the best thing anyone can do is to simply savor every moment during the journey and be thankful for their rare opportunity.

No clue

March 23, 2011

Laguna Hills, CA – The last seven to ten days of a player’s Spring training can be somewhat of a grind due to all the unknowns involved. When and where a player will be told to report is partly to blame, but the shear anticipation of the season can put ants in anybody’s pants if they lose focus on the big picture. Most recent news about John Lamb and his Kansas City Royals farm-hands have simply confirmed his continued efforts in camp. Sorry to say, I really have no clue when he will be standing in the middle of the infield during game speed assignments.

While many friends, colleagues and associates continue to ask the burning question about John Lamb and his immediate plans for the season and I must stand strong with my current state of ignorance about any facts. If I don’t know the answer…I refuse to guess and speculate.

Photo credit - John Sleezer

Couple days ago I received a phone call from a long time friend of the family, whom took our wedding pictures in Hawaii, and he informed me that John looked real good during some recent work with the coaching staff. Following his work he recognized Joe Collins and family to spend a little time with him before signing autographs for other fans patiently waiting in the wings. It makes me extremely happy and proud that my son continues to offer the time to fans of this great game hanging around the ballpark.

No news is really good news for the Lamb family despite the uncertainty. The Royals have plenty of choices during the next few days and months while trying to return a championship for Kansas City. Anything important will be officially announced through the transaction wires by the club and during the meantime we will count down the days until camp breaks for the full season of professional baseball.

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