Nicky Lopez: “In high school did I think I would become one… I knew it was my dream, but I didn’t know if I was definitely going to become one. I didn’t know what route it was going to take and I guess it took a good one.”
Nicky Lopez and his journey
Nicky Lopez, like a lot of young athletes, dreamed of going pro. Despite being a three-year contributor at the varsity level at Naperville Central, the middle infielder was almost entirely overlooked by scouts.
Nicky Lopez: “I got a couple of nibbles but I didn’t get drafted out of high school so I knew that picking the right college for me, education-wise was my first thing, because I really didn’t think baseball would take off the way it did.”
Mike Stock: “Did I think he was going to become a major leaguer then… I won’t tell you that, I’d be lying to you. But did I think he was going to be successful at Creighton, absolutely. And at each step, would I bet on him? Every time and that’s why I continue to bet on him.”
As Mike Stock, the head coach at Naperville Center, mentions – Nicky opted to go to Creighton.
Comeback From Knee Surgery
It was as a Bluejay, Lopez faced his greatest adversity after having a solid freshman campaign.
Nicky Lopez: “Sophomore more year I injured my knee, I think it was around the end of March, early April – had knee surgery and then came back and played but didn’t really finish that well, didn’t really have that good of a year.”
While the spring of 2015 brought disappoint, the summer had quite the opposite in store. Lopez spent the summer in Thomasville, North Carolina and changed the trajectory of his career.
Mike Stock: “The summer ball, after sophomore year, when he started knocking balls out of the ball park is when he let me know he was starting to get some attention. And not one of those steps surprised me.”
Lopez played one more year at Creighton before getting drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the fifth round.
Nicky Lopez Called Up to the Majors
And while Stock hasn’t been surprised, Lopez can’t say the same. In May of 2019, the 24 year old was crushing the ball in triple-A before getting benched by his manager.
Nicky Lopez: “He made an excuse about I didn’t get a hit with a pink bat because it was Mother’s Day so I’m like ‘that’s weird.’… So I had to sit through a whole game without him telling me what’s going on. Sat through a whole game, told me to go to his office and bring my phone, so I brought it and he took my phone and called my mom told her the reason I didn’t play wasn’t because of a pink bat but because I was going to Kansas City.”
Lopez spent the rest of the season playing for the Royals. In 104 games he hit .240 with a pair of homers and 22 doubles.
2020 Major League Season
When the 2020 season begins, Lopez projects to be KC’s starting second baseman. It’s a credit to the years of hard work, as well as those who supported him along the way.
Mike Stock: “One of the great things about Nicky, his brothers, and parents — if Nicky had gone on to be an accountant, I’d still be in touch with the family. It’s not about baseball only with them. It’s a great family and when that happened it was just thrilling.”
Nicky Lopez: “That support system is huge in the game of baseball because there’s a ton of ups and downs, a lot of slumps you go through. But if you have a strong support system, you’re going to be able to get through anything.”
And Lopez has… and continues to overcome whatever baseball throws his way. Which is a scary thing for opposing pitchers.
For Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman