Former Florida Southern All-American and Major Leaguer Lance Niekro is the new head baseball coach at Florida Southern College. At a news conference May 9, FSC Director of Athletics Pete Meyer announced that he is relinquishing his baseball coaching duties and turning the program over to Niekro. Meyer is continuing in his role as athletics director.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity,” Niekro said. “After playing and going to school here and being from Lakeland, I feel it’s a great position for me and my family. Everyone knows what a great baseball tradition Florida Southern has established. I definitely feel the program is going in the right direction and my staff and I look forward to keeping the program among the very best in Division II.”
“Lance has been a tremendous addition to our staff and is the right person to lead our baseball program into the future,” Meyer said. “It has been a pleasure to watch him develop as a student-athlete/professional athlete to a husband/father and the head baseball coach at his alma mater. Lance is well respected in the community and throughout the Tampa Bay region. The future is bright for Florida Southern baseball.”
Niekro becomes just the sixth head baseball coach the Moccasins have had since 1958. He takes over a program that has produced nine NCAA Division II championships, the most by any Division II baseball program.
He joined the Moccasin staff as an assistant coach for the 2011 season and served as associate head coach this season. A graduate of Lakeland’s George Jenkins High School, Niekro was drafted as a senior by Philadelphia in the 13th round, but chose to attend Florida Southern instead of signing. He was redshirted in 1998 and played in 1999 and 2000 for the Moccasins. In 1999 he hit .368 with eight home runs, 44 RBI and 21 stolen bases. In 2000 he hit a team-best .357 with seven home runs, a team-high 63 RBI and 24 stolen bases. He was a first-team All-Sunshine State Conference selection, a first-team All-South Region selection and a third-team All-America pick. In the 2000 Major League Draft, he was the 61st player selected overall, going in the second round to San Francisco.
In the summer between his two seasons at FSC, Niekro played in the Cape Cod League for the Orleans club. He was the league MVP in 1999, hitting .360 with 13 home runs and 44 RBI and just missed winning the triple crown, as he led the league in home runs and RBI and was second in batting. He hit safely in 43 of the team's 48 games. In 2006, he was inducted into the Cape Cod League Hall of Fame.
He made his big league debut with the Giants in September of 2003. His best season was 2005, when he hit .252 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI in 113 games. Overall he spent four seasons with the Giants, hitting .246 with 17 home runs and 79 RBI. He also had brief minor league stints with the Astros’ and Braves’ organizations before leaving pro baseball. He returned to Lakeland and completed work on his bachelor’s degree in May 2010.
Niekro is the son of the late Joe Niekro, who won 221 games in 22 seasons in the Major Leagues and who also was an assistant coach at Florida Southern in 2000. His uncle is Hall of Famer pitcher Phil Niekro, who won 318 games in his career.
He and his wife, Emilee, have a one-year-old son, Will.