When Ryan Long walked over and embraced Andrew Lambo on Tuesday night, the 24-year-old outfielder finally realized it was a special moment.
"Coming into the the dugout, everyone was congratulating me," Lambo said. "And when my hitting coach, Ryan Long, gave me a hug, when that happens, you sit back and obviously, it hits you a bit. In that moment, I was happy for our team."
Lambo capped a memorable night when he homered in the fifth inning, completing the first cycle in team history as the Double-A Altoona Curve cruised past the Akron Aeros, 14-6, at Canal Park.
"It was a great individual night, but also a great team night," said Lambo. "I definitely won't forget it. I've never done that, period, so it's definitely a big accomplishment.
Acquired by the Pirates with pitcher James McDonald in the 2010 trade that sent Octavio Dotel to the Dodgers, Lambo completed the cycle in order before the game even became official. He hit an RBI single in the first, lined a double in the third, tripled home another run in fourth, then led off the top of the fifth with his second homer of the season off Kyle Landis.
It was the first cycle this season in the Minor or Major Leagues, the first in Altoona's 15-year history and the first one in the Eastern League since Manny Machado managed the feat for Bowie last Aug. 4.
Lambo, who went 4-for-6 with four runs scored and three RBIs, said he didn't realize he was a longball shy of the cycle when he stepped in for his fourth at-bat. He thought he'd walked moments before going deep.
"Honestly, I thought I walked on a close call and then [the umpire] called it a strike, but I wasn't thinking about [the cycle]," the California native said. "I got the head out and the guy threw a good pitch; fortunately, I got the barrel on the ball and it took off. I came back to the dugout and it kinda hit me, 'Wow, I did the cycle in four at-bats.' It was a pretty cool night, I'm definitely happy. As a team, we put it to them tonight."
The former Dodgers prospect missed most of last season after undergoing right wrist surgery but is off to a strong start with Altoona. Lambo, who fell a triple shy the cycle on April 6 against Erie, already has 10 hits and six RBIs in six games and is batting .417.
"I'm just taking it day by day and living in the moment right now," he said. "Obviously, the struggles I've had over my career, I've battled some adversity and it's made me into a stronger human being. It's just living in the moment, going out that day in whatever jersey you're wearing and playing 110 percent. Your goal is to eventually, along the road, help the big league club out, but at the moment, it's helping the Curve win and having fun doing it."
The left-handed-hitting outfielder was on the Curve's disabled list from April 17-Aug. 18 last season after undergoing surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his wrist. Lambo hit a pair of homers in his first game back last summer and remains something of an off-the-radar prospect for the Pirates following his departure from the Dodgers system four years ago, when he was suspended for testing positive for a drug of abuse.
On Tuesday, it was a moment to celebrate. Lambo said he got back to the Curve clubhouse and found text messages from close friends back home who were watching the game.
"All my buddies have been blowing me up. They follow me and definitely, some of my buddies are very close, we have a close little group of friends back home and they really appreciate and care about baseball, so it's been non-stop," he said. "I've been texting them all back, it's been a cool night. When you sit back, it's a great accomplishment, but you have to wake up tomorrow and you gotta go play again. You're happy for what happens, but you do it again tomorrow."
The Dodgers' fourth-round pick in 2007 has spent time at Altoona each of the last four years while playing 60 games at Triple-A Indianapolis in 2011. He got seven at-bats in six Grapefruit League games this spring with the Pirates.
"You want to start off hot, and right now the average fluctuates so much, you can't look at anything, you can't look at the scoreboard, it's so up and down," Lambo said. "So you just try to go up there and have a good approach. You can't really sit there and let the average dictate your at bats. Just go up there and have some fun."
Lambo was at the center of Altoona's 14-run effort. He scored on Alex Dickerson's double in the first, came home on Adalberto Santos' double in the third and scrambled home again in the fourth when Justin Howard reached on a fielder's choice and a throwing error. Dickerson, Mel Rojas and Stefan Welch each knocked in two runs, with Rojas matching Lambo's four hits.
"Their starter was good, he has great stuff, but fortunately we got him early and our leadoff guy got on," Lambo said. "Matt Curry and other guys were getting on, so that's pretty easy. It's a comfortable situation hitting with guys on. You have the guy pitching out of the stretch, makes him a little more vulnerable. I was fortunate enough to put a good swing on the guy. He's got good stuff, but he was missing a little bit and I hit some mistakes."
Tim Alderson (1-0) notched his first win after allowing an unearned run on two hits over 2 1/3 innings in relief of starter Brandon Cumpton.