MILWAUKEE — If Brewers 25th-round draft pick Lance Roenicke is able to make it to the major leagues, there will be a familiar face waiting for his arrival in the manager’s office: His father, and Milwaukee skipper, Ron Roenicke.
Lance Roenicke, a fifth-year senior outfielder out of Cal-Santa Barbara, was selected by his father’s Brewers with the 785th overall pick on Day 3 of the MLB Draft.
But it wasn’t Ron, or anyone from the Brewers organization, who broke the news to Lance. It was his aunt, Ron’s sister, Debbie.
“I was kind of expecting to be drafted in the later rounds, so I looking at the draft here and there, but I wasn’t following every pick,” Lance said. “Then I looked at my phone and there’s a text message from my aunt, and it says ‘Congratulations!'”
If Lance is able to advance to the major leagues and play for his father in Milwaukee one day, it will be the first time Ron will have ever coached or managed his son at any level of baseball, including Little League. However, Ron was always his basketball coach during Lance’s childhood.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling, how everything worked out,” Lance said. “It’s nice that I get to play in the same organization that my dad coaches in. It’s an exciting time right now.”
While Ron was in Milwaukee preparing his injury-riddled Brewers to take on the Chicago Cubs, he gave Lance an hour to celebrate, then called to congratulate his son.
“He’s pretty fired up,” Ron said. “He’s a happy camper. He’s worked hard, had a good year and I’m glad to see he’s going to get the chance to play. He’s certainly athletic enough to do it, just hopefully all the tools come together and he’s able to play for a while.”
If any baseball fans are concerned this is nothing more than nepotism run amok, Ron had nothing to do with the Brewers’ decision to draft Lance. In fact, Ron’s busy schedule has only allowed him to make it to two of Lance’s college games.
“I think they’ve seen him for a long time,” Ron said. “It’s pretty neat when they like your son. About a week ago, (general manager) Doug (Melvin) had mentioned something to me, just to see what Lance’s thought process was.”
Ron would ultimately have given plenty of advice to his son no matter which team drafted Lance, but Lance can also turn to his cousin, Colorado Rockies pitcher Josh Roenicke, for helpful tips about playing professional baseball.
“He’s got three cousins that played professionally, one’s in the major leagues now,” Ron said. “He has the experience of talking with them when he doesn’t want to talk to dad about things. I think all that helps. He understands what it’s all about.”
Lance, who is still a week away from graduating with a degree in sociology, will finish his final exams on June 13, then wait to find out whether he’ll report to Arizona for the fall league or to Helena for the Brewers’ advanced rookie team affiliate.
While being drafted by his father’s team may have its advantages, it also creates a few extra challenges.
“It adds a little bit of pressure, but you’ve got to overcome it,” Lance said. “Pressure will be good for me.”
It also added a difficult question for Lance about whether the Brewers drafted him because of his father’s role in the organization.
“Kind of what I was looking for, I just wanted to make it on my own, not just for a family thing, not drafting me just because I’m his son,” Lance said. “But I had a pretty good year this year. I worked hard. I just wanted to play at the next level.
“I was just hoping to get picked up. It could’ve been with another team, I would’ve been happy.”
While Ron was happy his son was a Brewer, he had similar reservations.
“Sometimes for that player, sometimes it gives them more of a sense that other people wanted me also,” Ron said. “It would’ve been fine either way (if another team drafted Lance instead).”
Lance’s productive senior season at Santa Barbara included a .310 batting average with four home runs and 35 RBI.
Though Ron admits Lance “probably has a little more pop” than he had during his eight-year playing career from 1981-88, he also sees an area of improvement for his son.
“He could make a little more contact,” Ron said with a smile.