George Lombard was not a name that stuck out to me in my memory banks of all-time great Atlanta Braves prospects. But when Kris Willis — the man who keeps the all the wheels and gears moving behind Talking Chop — requests a name for our Atlanta Braves Prospect Retrospect series, you say, “sure thing.”
What I found out is that Lombard was indeed once a top 100 prospect in all of baseball — four times to be precise. But that’s not even half his story.
Let’s take a look back at the Braves 1994 MLB draft picks life and times.
George Lombard: To UGA or not to UGA, that is the question
Lombard was such an intriguing rabbit hole to climb down before he even stepped foot onto a professional baseball field. Cary Osborne of Dodger Insider coined him “a most interesting man” in 2016 and he wasn’t wrong. A few highlights:
- His family was rooted on the Mayflower;
- His mother marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. as a civil rights activist; and
- His grandfather was senior dean at Harvard Business School for 41 years.
Lombard himself was a two-sport superstar at the Lovett School and actually became one of the best high school football players in Georgia. He was a Parade All-American on the same first team as Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Fred Taylor, Tony Gonzalez and Orlando Pace. Lombard was known as a power back with blazing speed and was wooed by big programs like Notre Dame and Florida State but decided to stay “home” and committed to Georgia.
Until his favorite baseball team came calling, of course.
The Braves drafted Lombard in the second round of the 1994 MLB Draft. They quickly inked him to a $425,000 deal and Lombard began his rise, swiping 51 stolen bases in 1995. Come 1996, the speedy outfielder broke out for Macon, slashing .245/.311/.419 with 16 doubles, eight triples, 15 home runs and 24 stolen bases. That propelled him into Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list for the 1997 season.
It was the first of four straight seasons as a top 100 prospect, reaching as high as No. 26 in 1999.
Lombard debuts for Braves, begins MLB journey
Lombard had one of his best seasons of his career in 1998. He hit .308 with Double-A Mississippi. posting a .953 OPS, 25 doubles, 22 home runs and 35 stolen bases. He was rewarded with his first cup of coffee in the bigs, going 2-for-6 in six September games, featuring a pinch-hit home run and, of course, a stolen base.
The outfielder bounced up and down the next two seasons with the Braves, but simply couldn’t etch out a spot. The Braves traded him to the Detroit Tigers in June of 2002 and it became his longest-tenured stint as an MLB player. In 72 games for the Tigers that season, he hit .241 with five home runs and 13 stolen bases.
He floated around the minors and made a few more big-league appearances. All in all, Lombard played 16 years in the minor leagues and saw time in six MLB seasons. Not a bad run by any means. He hung it up at the age of 33 in 2009.
It was just the first chapter of his MLB career.
Lombard today: a powerful voice on the field and off
Lombard began his second career as a coach in 2010. He hooked up with the Boston Red Sox, a team he had played for and which took a liking to him as a leader and mentor.
“He’s got a perspective on life and how he fits into the world that’s a little bit different than the typical player,” former GM Ben Cherington told Boston.com in 2005. “He’s been exposed to a lot of people and ideas that some others haven’t. He’s a very intelligent guy.
“That relates to the game he plays. He prepares himself well, is methodical in his preparation, studies the game, and understands what he needs to do to carve out a niche in the big leagues.”
Lombard was first the hitting coach for the NYPL Lowell Spinners before becoming skipper for the GCL Red Sox for the 2011-12 seasons. The following season, the Red Sox utilized Lombard’s assets to their advantage, making him the outfield and base running coordinator for the entire system.
In 2015, the Braves came calling and hired him to the same position. Lombard made it clear he was ready for a big-league position, however, and when the Los Angeles Dodgers came calling a few months later, Lombard got his wish.
He’s been the first base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2016.
It’s clear Lombard has an impact on the Dodgers, a young team that has become very good under the current regime. But he has now turned his attention off the field.
Posy Lombard, his mother, was a well-educated woman. A white woman from Massachusetts, she attended Smith College and in 1965 went to Alabama, where she would fight for civil rights alongside King, Jr., even spending a week in jail. That is where she met Paul Williams and had three children, one of which she named George.
As we’ve mentioned, his grandfather was a well-educated man. Lombard has told several different media outlets that several of his relatives have attended Harvard, his mother is an alumnus of Smith, and his cousin a professor at Yale, making it somewhat odd that Lombard didn’t attend college until much later, when he got his psychology degree from University of Phoenix.
Posy Lombard died when George was 10. His grandfather at the wheel, the Lombards got into a car accident and Posy never recovered from the injuries. It wasn’t until recently, with the current climate of our country, that George dug into his mother’s past.
“I think a lot of this has had to do with finding myself, understanding my mom,” Lombard told the Los Angeles Times. “And when you lose a parent at that young age, as I’ve opened up and learned, you really shut down a lot of things. There was a lot of things that were never talked about. And I get very emotional talking about it, but it’s been like healing for me to talk and spend time with my brother and sister more.”
Now, Lombard is a leader in the community, hoping to follow in his mother’s footsteps. An active leader in the Posy Project, Lombard recently teamed up with both the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Dodgers Foundation in hopes of bringing equal justice and rights across the nation.
And in the meantime, Lombard suits up in Dodger blue as LA rolls off to another remarkable season out West.
Did you hear? Thanks to you, our dear readers, enjoying this series, we have our own Prospect Retrospect hub page now! Be sure to check out those prospects we have already looked at and keep up with who is yet to come below: