Lopez returns to lead Arizona baseball
Three months without a head coach would probably feel weird for any sports team; it did for the Arizona baseball team.
When the Wildcats’ Andy Lopez had a quadruple bypass heart surgery in October, it meant his team would have to be without him while he recovered.
“It probably sounds corny, but I probably took [coaching] for granted in some ways,” Lopez said.
Assistant coaches Shaun Cole and Matt Siegel were the ones who had to take care of business while Lopez was gone.
Returning players felt that they, too, had to fill some shoes so that nothing would change while Lopez was out.
Head Coach Andy Lopez calls a pitch during Arizona's 10-1 win against Cal on Friday, April 5, 2013.
“We wanted everyone to feel like he was there,” sophomore infielder Kevin Newman said. “When he came back, we wanted [it] to be the same; we wanted to be working just as hard and getting just as good.”
Those three months are gone, and the team finally has its coach back, just before the season begins.
Lopez returned to the field on Jan. 15 when spring individual workouts began for the players.
The first official practice for Arizona was on Jan. 24, and Lopez was finally there with his entire team.
The returning players already had an idea and knew what to expect, but new players, especially the freshmen, weren’t sure what Lopez had to offer.
“It’s great — he brings up a new sense to the club. A lot of freshmen didn’t experience what he’s like,” Newman said. “To have him out here now is definitely better for us.”
This will be the 13th season at Arizona for Lopez, and according to his returning players, he is the same as he always has been even after surgery.
“[He’s] the same coach Lopez,” Newman said. “No difference. High intensity and expects excellence.”
Junior catcher Riley Moore was a freshman on the 2012 UA team that won the NCAA tournament.
He was with Lopez then, and he was also with him when the team didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament last year.
“Being able to have Lopez back here is huge for the entire team. He’s getting us ready real quick,” Moore said. “He’s got a lot of catching up to do, but our assistant coaches did a great job last fall as well as the leaders, the older guys on the team. I know he expects 110 percent.”
Three months of recovering from surgery and time off the field have not kept Lopez from being his typical high-intensity self.
“He may be even more of ‘Andy Lopez,’” junior pitcher Mathew Troupe said with a smile on his face.
—Follow Rose Aly Valenzuela @RoseAlyVal