Former Florida Southern All-American and Major Leaguer Lance Niekro was named head coach of the Moccasins in May of 2012, succeeding Pete Meyer, Florida Southern's current director of athletics. Niekro originally joined the Moccasin staff as an assistant coach for the 2011 season and served as associate head coach during the 2012 season.
Niekro, who is just the sixth head baseball coach the Moccasins have had since 1958, took over a program that has produced nine NCAA Division II championships, the most by any Division II baseball program. He is entering his fifth season at the helm of the Mocs in 2016-17.
In his four previous seasons at FSC, he has compiled a 107-87 overall record, winning his 100th career game in the second game of a doubleheader at Rollins College on April 9, 2016 as the Mocs downed the Tars, 9-2. The Moccasins finished last year with a 32-17 overall record and a 14-10 mark in the Sunshine State Conference.
In 2014, Niekro led the Moccasins to the championship round of the NCAA Division II South Regional, finishing the season with a 35-19 record while tying for third in the SSC with a 14-10 mark.
Four of Niekro's players have been selected in the Major League Baseball June Draft, including Sam Machonis, a 10th round pick of the Detroit Tigers in the 2016 Draft. Jhalan Jackson was a seventh round choice of the New York Yankees in 2015, while in 2014, Keith Curcio was tapped in the sixth round by the Atlanta Braves and Trey Vavra went to the Minnesota Twins in the 33rd round. All four players were active in the minor leagues in the summer of 2016.
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. He was redshirted in 1998 and played the next two seasons 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 summer between his two seasons at FSC, Niekro played in the Cape Cod Baseball League for the Orleans club. He was the league's MVP in 1999, hitting .360 with 13 home runs and 44 RBI, hitting safely in 43 of the team's 48 games. He just missed winning the triple crown, as he led the league in home runs and RBI and was second in batting. Niekro was voted to both the midseason and postseason CCBL All-Star teams, and in 2006, was inducted into the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame.
Following his collegiate career, Niekro was the 61st player chosen in the 2000 Major League Baseball June Draft, going in the second round to the San Francisco Giants. The 61st selection is the second-highest any Moccasin has been drafted, trailing only Brett Tomko, the 54th overall player chosen in the 1995 draft by the Cincinnati Reds in the second round.
He made his big league debut with the Giants in September of 2003. His best season came in 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 Nancy and 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 two sons, Will (5) and Van Phillip (1).