BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- The Western Kentucky baseball team kicked off their weekend series against Charlotte with the time-old tradition of the national anthem. Not only did WKU Baseball celebrate our troops with the national anthem, they went the extra mile by giving all military personnel and veterans free admission for the weekend.
The sounds of the organ rung around a silent stadium as fans and players paid homage to those who fought for our country that have given us the ability to enjoy a weekend of college baseball. There was one Hilltopper in particular who took a few extra seconds of silence as he loomed over his defensive territory at second base. Starting shortstop Kevin Lambert briefly remembered his father who was a helicopter pilot in the military for 21 years.
Lambert said, “There’s a lot of gratitude for the people that serve in the military when I look up at the flag.
The 6-2 junior added , “Toward’s the end of the national anthem I think about my dad and everything that he’s sacrificed for this country.”
Lambert’s father, Thomas, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. During his dad’s time in the Army, he was a globetrotter serving in various countries such as Spain, Somalia, and Venezuela. Although he says his dad was one of his biggest influences, he credits his mom with most of his baseball development.
Lambert said, “I usually threw baseballs with my mom, and she would hit me some groundballs. Occasionally, I would throw with my dad, but he always said that I threw too hard, so he wouldn’t play catch with me that often.”
Lambert certainly owes a lot to his father’s travels in the military. Without it, he would never have had the opportunity to put on the red and white for WKU. While Thomas was stationed in Honduras, he was doing some work with the owner of a helicopter business. The owner liked Thomas enough that he decided to introduce him to his daughter. They went on a date, and according to the WKU shortstop, the rest was history.
Lambert said, “my grandpa hooked up my mom and my dad. He said, ‘oh, you guy’s should go on a date.’ They went on a date, and then here I am.”
The Florida native’s dad did all that he could to give Lambert the best chance for success in baseball. His dad indoctrinated many of the mental attributes, like confidence and perseverance, that has made Lambert a hawk in the infield.
Lambo, as the team calls him, said, “baseball is a game of failure, you have to be mentally tough. My dad has instilled in me the mental toughness to get through the slumps, and to be able to get through failure.”
The WKU junior displayed that mental toughness after a harsh series against Florida International. During the three-game span in his home state, he didn’t get a single hit going 0-11 on the weekend. Lambert came back in a big way in the Tops midweek trip to EKU. He rode out of Richmond with three hits and two runs that helped WKU to a thrilling 12-9 win. He kept rolling through the first game against Charlotte. The shortstop kicked the series off with two hits and three RBI.
Lambert’s military influence doesn’t just stop with his family. One of the biggest influences on his baseball career came when he played travel ball for a former drill sergeant in Connecticut. He credits his coach, Bob Turcio, for his immense work ethic that has made him a regular name in the WKU starting lineup.
Lambert said, “He definitely made us work, so that’s when it all started pretty much.”
Lambert didn’t just take away a strong work ethic from his time playing for the Connecticut Bombers. Turcio aided Lambo in developing his technique in the batter’s box as well and with good reason. Turcio is a member of the University of New Haven Athletics Hall of Fame for his heavy hitting during his Charger career. He holds the UNH record for home runs in a career.
I can see why the Hilltoppers are commemorating the military this weekend. Without the lessons learned and the relationships built, WKU wouldn’t have the shortstop that has started all but one game during his Hilltopper career.
*Nathan Yazdani contriibuted to this story.