"I don't think there's any doubt that my dad wanted me to be a baseball
player growing up," Berkman said. "He took me out in the back yard as
early as 3 or 4 years old and was pitching to me. That was his
goal from day one. He was the one that taught me how to play the game,
how to swing, and I owe a lot of my career to my dad."
To overcome the long odds of reaching the Majors, however, it takes
than merely swinging the bat at a young age. For most, it takes an
intense amount of dedication to the craft, a work ethic that Berkman
also credits to his father.
Larry Berkman, a sports attorney based out of New Braunfels, Texas, who
at one point counted his son among his clients, played baseball at the
University of Texas and coached many of his son's youth-league teams.
a result, he had the background in the game to help his son at a young
When Berkman was about 5, his dad noticed his son had an odd
combination of skills. He threw with his left hand, but hit with his
right. From there, the idea of making Berkman a switch-hitter was born.
His dad hung an old tire in the backyard for Lance to swing at from
sides, strengthening his muscles and giving him the foundation to hit
left-handed. When he was 7and joined his first youth-league team,
his dad forced him to take one at-bat left-handed and one at-bat
right-handed, and he continued that emphasis until Berkman reached high
school, at which point he batted the opposite of the pitcher.
Even though many of his teammates wanted Berkman to bat right-handed in
key spots, since it was his dominant side, he and his dad were
to learning the craft of switch-hitting and he continued the ritual
Midway through that ritual, when Berkman reached the age of 9, his
father put a tee in the garage and required him each night to hit 50
times from the left side and 50 from the right side.
Years later, that dedication has certainly paid off. Given that most
Major League pitchers are right-handed, Berkman takes most of his
from the left side. And over the course of his eight-year career, he's
actually been a better hitter left-handed.
But to Berkman, his dad's influence in baseball is only a small part of
what makes him so special.
"My dad is my hero," he said. "I think so much of him. He's just got
tremendous moral values, and he's just a wonderful person and somebody
who's very comforting to be around. He's very soothing when he talks to
you. He's helped me a lot mentally when I get into a slump. I think a
lot of him, and I wish everyone was fortunate enough to have a dad like
Given his struggles in the early part of 2007, Berkman says he's
turned to his dad multiple times this season.
"He's been very encouraging," Berkman said. "Dad takes it sometimes
harder than I do. When I don't get a hit, he gets more upset than me. I
think a lot of that stems from the fact that he can't do anything about
it -- he just has to watch."
One thing that makes watching easier for his dad was Berkman's good
fortune of being selected by the Astros, allowing him to remain in the
state and even in the same city where he played college baseball at
"When I was picked by the Astros, it was just a neat feeling to know
get to stay at home," Berkman said. "[Dad] has been to countless games -- he burns up I-10 between New Braunfels and here. So it's good to play
here and be close so he can come and enjoy my career and watch me
With Jeff Bagwell leaving the clubhouse after the 2005 season, Berkman
is one of several long-time Astros -- including Roy Oswalt and Brad
-- to transition into something of a leadership role based on their
ability. Not surprisingly, he credits his dad with giving him the life
lessons to excel at that task.
"He's someone I've learned through by example more than anything else,
particularly with his honesty," Berkman said.
"One thing about Dad is that he's not a man of many words. He's not
charming. He's not necessarily a guy that will walk up and take the
floor and talk a bunch. But the way he lives is an example to a lot of
people. He's a true gentleman. He's got a lot of people that look up to
him and the way he carries himself. A lot of times actions speak louder
than words, and he's a guy that certainly lives that out."