Former Rice players back Lance Berkman to become new Owls baseball coach

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Boston Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt, who played college baseball at Rice, signed a petition asking the school to name former Owls star Lance Berkman as its new baseball coach.

Holt, an American League All-Star in 2015, is one of more than 50 former Rice players who signed the petition that was sent to athletics director Joe Karlgaard.

Berkman, National College Player of the Year at Rice in 1997, played 15 years in the Big Leagues and was a six-time All-Star, five with the Astros.

“We’re kind of petitioning on Lance’s behalf,” Holt said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. “We just think he’d be the right man for the job.

“A tough spot to come in after Coach (Wayne) Graham and all the success that he had, but we feel like the best thing for the program, for the university, is to bring in a guy like Lance. He’s obviously a Rice guy, a Houston guy, one of the best switch-hitters to really ever play, a good man.

“I think it’s a good time bring him in.”

According to college baseball sources Berkman interviewed with Rice officials on Friday.

He won a World Series with former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa in St. Louis in 2011.

La Russa is now a special assistant to the Boston Red Sox baseball operations.

He said Berkman would be an “excellent” choice to lead the Owls baseball program.

“I don’t know the candidates. I’m sure the people that are going to make that decision, the athletic director, know everything they need to know,” La Russa said.

“I can just tell them, I went against him for many years and I always marveled at how competitive and clutch he was. Then we had one year as a teammate, and I realized what a leader he was, just a natural kind of leader that people gravitated to.

“He’s the best I’ve ever seen at having an engaging personality..and when the game starts he’ll teach you how to compete.”

La Russa has stayed in touch with Berkman.

“He is really committed to leadership and recruiting that’s so important, teaching young guys how to be competitors,” La Russa said.

“I’m blown away by how serious he is about coaching. Hopefully, Rice is the opportunity.

“I think he’d be excellent.”

Rice is not commenting on its search.

A source with knowledge of the school’s process said Rice officials would like to have their search completed by the start of the College World Series, which is June 16.

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