LUBBOCK, Texas -- Rice great Lance Berkman was part of a star-studded group inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame on its "Night of Champions" in Lubbock, Texas.
Berkman joined fellow 2015 Hall of Fame inductees Frank Viola, a Cy Young Award winner, World Series MVP and three-time major league all-star who led St. John's to the 1980 College World Series; Joe Arnold, a two-time NJCAA All-American pitcher at Miami-Dade who also earned Most Valuable Player honors at the 1966 NJCAA World Series; Larry Hays, who is one of only eight coaches at any level of college baseball with 1,500 wins; Al Holland, a ten-year major league pitcher and collegiate star at North Carolina A&T; Bill Holowaty, the third-winningest coach in NCAA Division III history; Mike Kelly, who was the consensus national player of the year in 1990 and winner of the 1991 Golden Spikes Award; and Rick Reichardt, who won the first recognized collegiate national player of the year award in 1964.
Before he became a six-time major league all-star and 2011 World Series champion, Berkman amassed 67 home runs, 272 RBI and a .385 batting average in his collegiate career at Rice (1995-97). He led the Owls to the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1995, and first College World Series appearance in 1997, when he was named the National Player of the Year and was unanimous All-America selection. That season he won the Western Athletic Conference triple crown with a .431 average, 41 homers and 134 RBI, as well as being the league leader in runs (109) and hits (110). The New Braunfels, Texas, native was a first-round MLB draft pick in 1997 (16th player selected overall) by the Houston Astros, who eventually led that franchise to its first World Series appearance in 2005.
"I came in at a good time because the foundation was being laid for the program that everyone now knows," Berkman said. "We had Jose Cruz Jr., Mark Quinn and Matt Anderson, who all played in the big leagues, and we had coach (Wayne) Graham, obviously, who won five junior college national titles. It wasn't me. I just kind of came in at the right time."
Coach Graham is also a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame. The 2012 inductee had high praise for his former player, who in the fall of 2014 served as a volunteer student coach for the Owls during their off-season training program.
"I can't imagine a more deserving player for this honor than Lance," coach Graham said. "He had one of the greatest years in the history of college baseball (in 1997) to help get us to Omaha. He is one of the prime players who elevated our program in so many ways. Congratulations to Lance, and all the new inductees."
For more information on the College Baseball Hall of Fame, visit www.CollegeBaseballHall.org.