Astros starter's dad pitched for seven years in big leagues
By Brian McTaggart
SEATTLE -- Lance McCullers Jr. was at his Tampa home some time ago sifting through some old VHS cassettes trying to find some baby videos of himself when he stumbled upon highlight footage of his father, a pitcher who played seven years in the Major Leagues.
McCullers says his dad wasn't one to talk about his career too much, much less brag about it, so he couldn't wait to play the videotape to see what Lance McCullers Sr. was all about. After searching for 20 minutes to find somewhere to play the old cassette, McCullers couldn't believe what he saw.
"I stuck it in there and it was like watching myself, almost in a way, just how I try to reflect him," McCullers said. "It was unbelievable, just to be able to see those videos of him pitch, and I have a lot pride in that."
Lance McCullers Sr. pitched primarily as a reliever, and had a career 3.25 ERA and a 28-31 record. His career ended in 1992, one year before Lance Jr. was born, so his son never had a chance to watch him pitch.
"My dad was real pretty quiet about his big league career," McCullers Jr. said. "He just really wanted us to enjoy playing ball as kids and fall in love with the game. He never pressed it on us; he never talked about it a whole lot. We knew he was a former big leaguer, and when you're young I don't think you understand the magnitude of what that really means. He was the best father that you could ask for."
Having a Major League pitcher for a dad gave McCullers a leg up on others who shared similar dreams, and his dad was always supportive, but never pushy.
"I think it's more just that you're Dad, your best friend growing up, the person you go to with all of your questions, can be that guide for you, can be that compass to point you in the right direction," McCullers said. "That's without you sometimes even knowing it, just from sitting down and watching baseball games with him to talking about baseball, to just enjoying the sport together, and he can kind of groom you as you go, not even realizing it. And maybe him not even realizing it, him being a great father. I owe a lot to my dad."
So when McCullers made his Major League debut at age 21 -- just like his dad -- when he started for the Astros on May 18 in Houston, having Dad there to watch was a moment he won't forget. Reaching the Major Leagues was only part of the dream. Having his father there to share it with him completed it.
"The countless hours in the cage, the ground balls, begging him to let me take off last period [of high school] to pick me up early and go throw and hit in the cage and that kind of stuff," McCullers said. "All those memories, a lifetime of them, just kind of came to one moment, and it was unbelievable for him to be there for me."