Sports

Lawton brothers made baseball a family affair

Blazing speed was one of the qualities that propelled brothers Marcus Lawton and Matt Lawton into minor league and major league baseball.

The former Harrison Central High School stars talked about their careers and the people who influenced them Friday afternoon at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in the weekly Our Love Affair with Baseball luncheon series.

Matt, 44, set a stolen base record at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before being drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1991. He played 12 years in the majors (1995-2006) and played in the MLB All-Star Game as a representative of the Twins in 2000 and the Cleveland Indians in 2004. He had career batting average of .267.

Marcus, 50, was drafted by the New York Mets in 1983. He played for the Mets in the minors, then went to the New York Yankees in 1989 and reached the major leagues. He later played in the minors for the California Angels and Chicago White Sox.

“I would definitely say the two All-Star Games were high points,’’ Matt Lawton said. “The first one with the Minnesota Twins was definitely one of the high points in my career. That year I was hitting around .330. Playing in (the All-Star Game) at Atlanta, I had a lot of family come to the game. I was able to get a hit as well.’’

As for his speed, Matt Lawton set a MGCCC record for stolen bases with 80 for coach Cooper Farris — then the major leagues beckoned in 1991. He went to the Pan-American Games in Cuba and was on fire at the plate and in the field. Then he signed with Minnesota.

“That was definitely a nice run,’’ Matt Lawton said. “I set the stolen base record at Gulf Coast. I’m not sure if the record still stands. It was a record that was hard to get. Cooper gave me the green light all the time. I was on base a lot. It was great to go to Cuba and play in the Pan-Am Games. Once I got a chance to go to the minors, that definitely made things easier playing against that much competition.’’

Matt said Kirby Puckett was a big influence in his major league career.

“I thought he’s the guy who reminds me of myself,’’ he said. “He took me under his wing (at Minnesota).’’

Matt is now a volunteer baseball coach at Harrison Central, and his son, Chaseton, will be a sophomore for the Red Rebels.

Marcus Lawton also mentored and encouraged his son — Marcus Lawton Jr. — who played baseball at Biloxi High and Pearl River Community College. He also played for Biloxi’s 5A state championship basketball team in 2009.

Both brothers praised their older cousin – the late Leon Farmer – in helping them in their development to become major league players.

Marcus, in introducing Matt, said that “he may have been a better defensive player but Matt was a much better hitter.’’

Marcus said the experience of playing for the Yankees in Yankee Stadium was breathtaking.

“That experience definitely puts you in awe,’’ Marcus Lawton said. “Just having the opportunity is very exciting, and it gave me the thrill of knowing that I finally made it. To play in that house is truly an accomplishment and it made me proud. To know you played where Babe Ruth and a lot of other greats played, you know you finally made it.’’

Marcus Lawton had another accomplishment of which he was proud – stealing 111 bases out of 121 attempts in 1985 for the Columbia Mets.

Both players said family support and encouragement propelled them from Saucier to the major leagues. And it’s all about dedication and love of the game.

“It was a lot of fun, and awesome ride,’’ Matt Lawton said.

“It’s about how much you love the game,’’ Marcus Lawton said.

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