For Diamondbacks’ Lamb, family bond means all

Jun 5, 2017, 3:26 PM

Jake Lamb (center right) poses for a picture with his siblings Dan Lamb (far left), Dylan Lamb (cen...

Jake Lamb (center right) poses for a picture with his siblings Dan Lamb (far left), Dylan Lamb (center left) and Megan Lamb (far right)

(far right)

PHOENIX — If you ask Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb what he values most, the answer is simple: family. For the 26-year-old who is off to the best start of his career, family is often within arm’s reach.

Born and raised in Queen Anne Hill, a neighborhood of Seattle, Lamb grew up with three siblings.

“I’ve always been really close with my family,” Lamb said. “We spent a lot of time running around outdoors and playing sports. We’ve always been competitive.”

Older brother Dan was a two-sport athlete in high school. Younger brother Dylan will begin his college baseball career next season. Sister Megan was a standout softball player after battling leukemia at a young age.

“She’s the toughest girl I know,” Jake Lamb said

Much of their relationship has been built around sports and the adversity they’ve combated together. Through that, their bond continues to be strong.

Now, in his fourth year with the Diamondbacks, Lamb is quietly enjoying his best season as a major-leaguer. The family competitiveness that he experienced early on looks to be paying dividends. He currently leads the team with 14 home runs and 46 RBI and was recently named NL Player of the Week.

That competitive nature was instilled early on by his parents, John and Deonne. John played four years of football at Whitworth University in Spokane and Deonne played tennis throughout high school and college.

The couple did not shy away from passing the athletic torch on to their four children.

Jake Lamb excelled as a three-sport athlete at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle. Under George Monica — a member of the Washington State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame — Lamb earned the role of captain as a senior and was named team MVP during his junior and senior seasons for the baseball team. He led the Braves to the state tournament in each of his last two years and was named Washington’s top prospect by Baseball America.

As a sophomore, he had the opportunity to share the baseball field with his older brother, Dan, who played four years of baseball and football at Bishop Blanchet. Dan had the potential to play at the collegiate level, but, “he chose the frat life,” Lamb said jokingly.

He went on to graduate from Washington State University and still remains in the realm of athletics today as a youth baseball coach in the Seattle area.

From afar, the youngest of the Lambs — Dylan — appears to be following in his older brother’s footsteps. He’ll follow him to his alma mater at the University of Washington next year, where he signed a letter of intent to play baseball.

For Jake Lamb, it’s evident that he sees a bit of himself in his younger brother. He admits that he’s been tough on him at times, but for good reason.

“I know how hard I work now and I try to teach him that,” Lamb said. “But, I’ve had to take a step back at times because, you know, I wasn’t doing those things when I was a sophomore, junior, or senior.”

This past year as a senior, Dylan was named MVP and most inspirational on his team for Bishop Blanchet. Knowing the person his younger brother has grown to be, Lamb is prouder than ever of his younger brother. Envious, too, mentioning his reputation as a great student in the classroom, in which he smiled and said, “I can’t say I really was.”

On the surface, it appears that Lamb basks in the role of older brother, in the way that he hopes to pass down all of the meaningful lessons that he was taught growing up. Humorously enough, he always wondered if Dylan was listening to him all of those years. It turns out he was.

Deonne recalled a telling moment in their relationship from earlier this season when Jake was suffering through a slump at the plate. Dylan and his parents were watching the game on television at home when Jake struck out. Dylan reacted by taking matters into his own hands.

“Dylan sent him a text just saying, ‘Hey, I know you’re struggling right now,’ ” Deonne said. “He just wanted to give him some support and tell him how important he was to him.”

As it turns out, Lamb had intended to spend a few hours after the game hitting in the cage. Instead, a phone conversation with Dylan was all Lamb needed.

The very next day, Lamb took off on a tear, putting his slump behind him. “Dylan liked to say it was all because of him,” Deonne said with a laugh.

Considered the middle sibling and perhaps the glue that binds the four together is Jake’s sister. Megan grew up an exceptional softball player and represented the athletic gene probably better than anyone in the family.

“We always make fun of ourselves, us boys in the family,” Lamb said. “She was probably the best athlete and toughest out of all of us.”

For Megan, though, she faced a different fight before she ever took the softball field. At the age of three, she was diagnosed with leukemia.

Six at the time, Lamb was unaware of the full magnitude of the situation but as he grew older and truly assessed his sister’s battle, it shed new light. Through it all, it provided Lamb with a sobering perspective.

Megan certainly doesn’t fall short of compliments from her older brother when it comes to athletic ability. She was a three-time MVP on her softball team at Bishop Blanchet. “She was a stud,” he said.

She also graduated from Washington State but decided not to play any sports during her time there, leaving one member of the family a bit more disappointed than the rest.

“It was tough for my dad because she was really good at softball,” Lamb said.

During his time at Bishop Blanchet, George Monica had the opportunity to coach Lamb for three years in both baseball and football. Monica now serves as the school’s athletic director, following 35 years of coaching and more than 500 wins as the varsity baseball coach. It’s clear to Monica why Lamb has succeeded.

“Jake wouldn’t be where he is without his family support,” Monica said. “(John and Deonne) were never the over-the top type of parents that you often see at the high school athletic level. They always encouraged him. His brothers and sister and were always there for them.

He’s a real product of the type of relationship that they have with one another.”

For Monica and the Bishop Blanchet community, they couldn’t be more elated to see Lamb succeed. They praise not just what he has accomplished, but the type of person he has become.

When Monica watches Lamb play on television, he can tell he is not all that different from his days at Bishop Blanchet.

“Jake is still Jake,” Monica said. “He really looks like he’s out there having fun, living out his dream.”

Playing out a dream 1,400 miles from his family in the Arizona desert, Lamb’s connection to the ones he holds dear provided itself an all new meaning in July 2015. Following the All-Star break, he returned home to Seattle for the first time as a major-leaguer at Safeco Field for the Diamondbacks’ interleague series with the Mariners.

Against the team he grew up watching and with the support of his friends and family, Lamb took the scene in.

“To have all of my friends from grade school, high school, college, my coaches, teachers, people I didn’t even know were coming… it was awesome,” Lamb said. Besides my debut, that was probably the coolest experience I’ve had in the big leagues.”

It’s no secret that friends and family are paramount to Lamb. When deciding to play in his backyard at the University of Washington, he admits having his family nearby was key.

“I stayed close by because I was always a Huskie,” Lamb said. But, “honestly, I wasn’t ready to be on my own.”

Lamb embraced the idea of knowing that he could go home on the weekends and have his mom do laundry for him on Sundays. Like most college-aged students, he also cherished a nice home cooked meal — a rarity for a 19-year-old college student.

Fortunately, his family has always been within close vicinity. His dad’s side resides in the Seattle area, which allowed Lamb the opportunity to be there for family gatherings and to be close to everyone during his three years at Washington.

Family is everything to the left-handed hitting third baseman and whether they’re traveling to watch him play or watching on television, it’s still very surreal.

“I sometimes say to my husband, ‘Are we really watching our son play in the major leagues?’ ” Deonne said. “We’re just so proud of him.”

To no surprise, when the season concludes for the Diamondbacks there’s only one place you can expect to find the humble Lamb — where he was born and raised.

“I like to rent a place in (Queen Anne Hill) in the offseason,” Lamb said.

“It’s where all of my family is, it’s what I know.”


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