Ex-Maverick leads Angels to first World Series title
Former UTA pitcher/infielder John Lackey lived every baseball player’s dream during the 2002 major league season. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series in October, leading the Anaheim Angels to their first title.
“I couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” said Lackey, who became the first rookie in 93 years to win a deciding World Series game.
“I took it as a challenge,” he added of getting the call to start the seventh game against San Francisco. “The electricity in the crowd at our ballpark really gave me a boost and helped me stay focused.”
Before coming to UTA in the fall before the 1998 season, Lackey was a first baseman at Abilene High School, where his dad was the baseball coach.
“We recruited him as a first baseman,” said former UTA head baseball coach Butch McBroom, who is now director of athletic development at UTA. “We watched him throw some in the fall, and he showed such promise that we decided to try him on the mound.”
But Lackey performed better at first base—McBroom calls him the best defensive first baseman he ever coached—and at the plate than as a pitcher for the Mavericks. He batted .306 with 11 doubles in only 98 official bats. In 11 games as a pitcher, the right-hander finished 1-3 with a 10.29 earned run average.
Things changed in the summer of 1998.
“We got him on a summer team in the Jayhawk League, and he got to talking to some kids from Grayson (Junior College),” McBroom said. “Also, the major league scouts were talking to him, so he decided to go to Grayson that fall.”
Lackey led Grayson to the Junior College World Series championship in 1999 and was drafted by the Angels that spring. He patiently worked his way through the minor leagues and was summoned to the majors last June.
His big-league debut came against the Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington. “It was great to pitch in Arlington in front of a lot of family and friends,” he said. “I really didn’t think I would get called up until later in the season.”
Despite losing to the Rangers and returning briefly to the minors, he rejoined the Angels and posted a 9-4 record and a 3.66 ERA.
Lackey is the third former Maverick to play major league baseball and the first to reach the postseason. He won one game against Minnesota in the American League Championship Series and then pitched in three games in the World Series, including the Game 7 clincher.