SEVEN FORMER UTA BASEBALL PLAYERS IN THE BIG LEAGUES THIS SUMMER
June 20, 2008
ARLINGTON, Texas - The historic success of the UT Arlington baseball program is being viewed in the forefront of Major League Baseball this summer as seven former Mavericks are managing, coaching or playing in the big leagues. Former Mavs standout Trey Hillman (1982-85) is the manager of the Kansas City Royals, and his bench coach, Dave Owen (1977-79), was the first Mavericks player to reach the Major Leagues in 1983 with the Chicago Cubs. Also coaching is Steve Foster (1987-89), bullpen coach for the Florida Marlins. Four former UT Arlington standouts are playing for major league teams, including John Lackey (1998) with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Lowe (2002-04) with the Seattle Mariners, Hunter Pence (2003-2004) with the Houston Astros, and Daniel Ortmeier (2000-02) with the San Francisco Giants.
After becoming the 15th manager in the history of the Royals on Oct. 19, 2007, Hillman has guided Kansas City to a 31-42 overall record. The Royals are 7-3 during their last 10 games, while posting the second-longest current winning streak (five games) after sweeping the historic I-70 series from the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Hillman remains the all-time leader in UTA history for single-season batting average (.442 in 1985), and he is fifth on the UTA career batting list (.359). An Arlington native, Hillman was a three-time All-Southland Conference performer for the Mavs during his collegiate career.
Owen joined the Royals as the team's bench coach after serving in the same capacity, under Hillman, with the Japanese Nippon Ham Fighters last season. The UTA duo led the Fighters to the Pacific League title and to a berth in the Japan World Series. Owen has professional coaching experience with the Philadelphia Phillies (infield coordinator) and Major League scouting experience with the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Phillies. Owen currently holds the all-time Mavericks record for single-season base-on-balls (61).
Foster is in his second season as the Marlins bullpen coach, his fourth season with the club. His coaching career includes stops with the Marlins single-A affiliate (Greensboro) and three separate stints working as a scout with the Tampa Bay Rays (1996, 1999, 2000). Foster and the Marlins are currently in second place in the National League Eastern division with a 39-33 overall record. The Fish trail the first-place Phillies by only two games.
Foster became only the third pitcher in UTA history to be named the Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year in 1988. In his final season with the Mavericks, Foster won 11 games (tied for third in a single season), pitched 123 innings (second all-time), collected 12 complete games (third all-time) and posted 96 strikeouts (tied for third all-time).
Lackey is leading the Angels pitching staff with an impressive 1.73 earned run average. In seven starts this season, Lackey is 4-1 with one complete game, and he has thrown 52 innings with 39 strikeouts and nine base-on-balls. Now in his seventh major league season, Lackey has led the Angels into first place in the American League West with a 43-30 record. In addition, Lackey has tossed at least seven innings in all of his starts this campaign.
Historically, the 6-foot-6, 245 pound Lackey will be remembered for his Game 7 victory in the 2002 Fall Classic against the San Francisco Giants. Lackey worked five innings, allowed four hits, one walk and collected four strikeouts when leaving the game with a 4-1 lead. He became the first rookie pitcher since 1909 (Babe Adams - Pittsburgh Pirates) to win a World Series Game 7.
Lowe, now in his third season with the Mariners, is 1-3 with a 4.85 ERA in 29 2/3 innings pitched in relief. He has pitched in 28 games this season, including six two-inning appearances out of the bullpen. In his last outing against the Marlins (6/18), he collected a season-high three strikeouts in two innings.
Lowe, a 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher from Houston, pitched his final season for UTA in 2004 while making 22 appearances, tallying a 3.74 ERA, 53 innings pitched and 48 strikeouts with 19 walks.
Pence, a 6-foot-4 outfielder from Arlington, has emerged as one of the top young players in the game. After being considered during most of his rookie season as a N.L. Rookie of the Year candidate, Pence has remained consistent in his second big league season.
Currently serving as the every-day right fielder for Houston, Pence has tallied a .274 batting average with 36 RBI, and on June 19, hit his ninth home run of the season. In 722 career at-bats, Pence has recorded a .305 career average with 26 home runs.
Pence became the highest draft pick ever in UTA history in 2004 when the Astros selected him in the 2nd round with the 64th overall selection. In 2004, Pence led the Mavs to 32 victories while batting a team-high .395, with 75 base hits, eight doubles, five triples, eight home runs and 10 stolen bases. He currently ranks in seven UTA all-time single-season record books. Pence was also named the 2004 Southland Conference Player of the Year, SLC Hitter of the Year, and he was the SLC batting champion.
Ortmeier started the season penciled in as a first baseman/left fielder for the San Francisco Giants. In 39 games, Ortmeier has batted .219 with six doubles and five RBI. On May 30, Ortmeier suffered a fracture in his left middle finger which has placed him on the 15-day disabled list. Now in his fourth season with S.F., Ortmeier has played in 124 career games while recording six homers and 24 RBI.
After playing his prep career at Lewisville H.S. and being selected in the 27th round of the MLB draft, Ortmeier upped his stock in three seasons with the Mavericks, which ended in 2002, when he was selected in the third round by the Giants. Ortmeier, a two-time All-SLC performer in the outfield, led UTA his junior season with seven triples, 14 home runs and 66 RBI.
ON THE HORIZON:
At UTA, Roberts was named a 2003 Second Team Collegiate Baseball and CollegeBaseballInsider.com All-American and Third Team National College Baseball Writers Association All-American. He was also tabbed the 2003 SLC Player of the Year and was awarded the SLC Newcomer of the Year in 2002. In addition, Roberts currently owns seven all-time statistical records at UTA.