Daily Egyptian

Player profiles: ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ Saluki Greg Lambert

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Junior infielder Greg Lambert poses for a portrait Monday, April 24, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

Junior infielder Greg Lambert poses for a portrait Monday, April 24, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

Junior infielder Greg Lambert poses for a portrait Monday, April 24, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Denton "Gio" Giovenco

If you need an outfielder, junior Greg Lambert is your man. Need an infielder, he can man the corners and up-the-middle too. He will even put on the gear and get behind the plate, and would love the chance to pitch a few innings for your team. On top of all that, he can flat out hit.

Lambert hails from Athens, Alabama. He grew up loving the outdoors, fishing whenever he got the chance and learning to shoot at the age of 3 so he could hunt with his father.

He also credits his father with getting him started with baseball, and staying involved throughout his early years on the field.

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“He coached me until I was 10 years old,” Lambert said. “When I started playing travel ball at 11 or 12 years old, he still helped out as an assistant coach on my teams.”

The Saluki outfielder said he tried other sports while growing up, but they did not compare to baseball.

“I played soccer one year and I didn’t like it very much at all,” Lambert said. “I played football a little bit and wasn’t very good at basketball, but baseball I was pretty good at. It’s America’s pastime and I think it’s the best game ever created.”

Lambert attended Madison Academy in Madison, Alabama. He started on the varsity squad as a sophomore, and played every position but first base and center field through his high school career.

He also played for the prestigious Nashville Knights traveling baseball team in the off-season throughout high school, driving an hour and a half one way to get to his home field.

Lambert was ranked first overall third baseman in Alabama and 89th nationally by Perfect Game out of high school. Colleges took notice of his talents, and made visits to see him play.

“I had [the University of] Alabama come and watch me pitch one game my junior year,” he said. “But they were looking at me only as a pitcher and I didn’t just want to pitch in college.”

Morgan Timms
Junior infielder Greg Lambert retires from the field Tuesday, April 11, 2017, during the Salukis’ 4-2 win against Southeast Missouri at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

After making official visits to six or seven colleges, Lambert committed to SIU in the fall of his senior year.

“I knew one of the players that played here and knew some guys coming in from Nashville,” the Saluki utility man said. “I liked the coaches and they were building a new facility so that was a bonus.”

He also credits having the chance to compete for a starting position his freshman year at SIU as “a big decision-maker” in his choice to sign with the Salukis.

In his freshman season, Lambert succeeded in earning a starting spot on the team, playing primarily at first and third base. He said he learned a lot from his first season in college about the game, and not-so-comically a little about his eyesight.

“I started out hitting pretty well, close to .350 halfway through the season,” Lambert said. “Then I ended up having a really big fall in batting average, and came to find out at the end of the season my contact prescription had got decently worse — so that hurt me.”

Once he got his prescription figured out, hitting coach Ryan Strain signed Lambert and catcher Nick Hutchins up for a team in the college-level summer Valley League.

“Nick is definitely one of my best friends,” Lambert said. “Getting with him and being able to play alongside him all summer on the east coast was pretty cool.”

Junior infielder Greg Lambert runs toward second base Friday, April 28, 2017, during a 4-1 win against Dallas Baptist at Itchy Jones Stadium. (William Cooley | @Wcooley1980)

The Saluki outfielder credits the league with preparing him for his sophomore season.

“Valley League was pretty good competition,” he said. “I would consider it more of a pitcher’s league than a hitter’s league, which helped me out.”

In his sophomore season with SIU, Lambert was moved out of the infield, playing 56 of the season’s 57 games as an outfielder. Most of those games were in left field.

“I didn’t play left field a lot in high school,” he said. “I was a right fielder in high school so it was a lot different reading balls off the bat. I think I really matured as an outfielder my sophomore year.”

The summer following his sophomore year Lambert chose to sign with the Willmar Stingers of the Northwoods League, where he recorded a league-high 66 RBI’s while batting .330 to earn the Big Stick Award as the most productive first baseman in the league as well as an All-Star nod.

“I credit the Northwoods League with a lot of my success because of the toughness it gives you mentally,” Lambert said. “It’s 72 games in 75 days, so you have to learn to be tough upstairs.”

Lambert has played in all 41 games this season, mostly in the outfield and recently at first base. He is leading the team in home runs, doubles, hits, RBI’s, total bases and slugging percentage — all the while batting a robust .331.

“I set goals for myself every year,” the Saluki slugger said. “One is usually to hit .350, and others would definitely be winning the conference tournament and going on to a regional.”

Saluki junior infielder Greg Lambert darts toward third base before running home during SIU’s 13-8 win against Tennessee Tech on Sunday, April 23, 2017, at Itchy Jones Stadium. (William Cooley | @Wcooley)

With Lambert having a career year this season, professional scouts are taking notice. He said he has been in contact with several MLB teams to fill out questionnaires for them ahead of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft.

When asked if the ensuing draft is on his mind this season, Lambert said it is not his biggest worry.

“I believe I have a chance to be drafted, but I try hard not to think about it,” he said. “Like my dad always told me, ‘Don’t worry about things. If it’s meant to be it’s going to happen all on its own.'”

The Saluki outfielder also said he does not know whether he will stay at SIU or enter the professional ranks if he is drafted.

“My family has been a big part of who I am … it’s going to have to be the right situation for me and my family,” Lambert said. “It would also be really tough to leave this group of guys behind and miss my senior year.”

Lambert, who studies business management, said he wants to remain in baseball for the foreseeable future, in any capacity possible.

“I love this game and I want to play as long as I can,” he said. “Maybe even use my degree and experience on the field to manage players.”

There is one thing Lambert wants to accomplish before he moves on from his days at SIU — he wants to pitch.

“I joke around with Coach [P.J.] Finigan all the time and ask him when he wants me to throw a bullpen,” he said. “He hasn’t let me throw one yet, but I’m still going to be on him about it until I leave, that’s for sure.”

For now, Lambert said he is focused on this season as the Salukis strive for the Missouri Valley Conference Championship and beyond.

“I’m playing with a great group of guys here at SIU,” he said. “The coaches all care about us and want to win just as much as the players. We know that nobody wants to play us first game in the conference tournament because they know what we’re capable of. If we keep playing like we are right now … stay hot on this stretch and keep it going into the conference tournament … it’s going to be tough to beat us.”

Sports writer Denton “Gio” Giovenco can be reached at dgiovenco@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @DentonGiovenco.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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