Cultivating ChampionsPosted on: December 19, 2012 in People & Places
In 2012, the University of Arizona Wildcats baseball team won the title of national champions. It was the first time the team had done so since 1986. Under the leadership of Head Baseball Coach Andy Lopez, the win marked the team’s fourth national championship since its first official season in 1904.
The win marks a new moment for the team and staff alike, as the bar for next season has now been set at the highest height.
“Some players might be intimidated coming here to the University of Arizona after they won a national championship,” says freshman Ryan Koziol. “Coming into practice every day, it makes me want to work harder, you know, train longer and become that much better as a player.”
Such training represents hours and hours of work, but Koziol puts all his trust in Coach Lopez’s ability to give him the skills, experience and motivation he needs.
“I came to the University of Arizona because of Coach Lopez,” he says. “He’s pretty demanding as a coach, definitely, but he’ll get you ready for the best of the best.”
The Love of the Game…and the Challenge
“It (baseball) is the only sport that I know of where you’re on offense and you don’t have the ball,” says Coach Lopez. “It’s a sport of attrition. It really is. You just have to bear with it.”
Decades of experience and coaching three championship teams have all contributed to Coach Lopez’s perspective on achieving excellence at the game. They have also reinforced again and again why he loves the game so much.
“When we won the national championship, I was extremely happy for the athletes, for the University of Arizona, for the Tucson community, and all the alums,” he says.
His players couldn’t have been happier, either.
“The reception we got from the fans was remarkable,” says senior pitcher Konnor Wade. “To be supported as much as we were was a truly incredible feeling for us.”
“Konnor Wade is one of those young people I’ve been able to see grow and develop,” recalls Lopez. “I remember when he was a freshman he didn’t say two words. And now he’s one of our top guys and arguably one of the top pitchers in America, and representing the University of Arizona.”
And as for Wade, the appreciation for the privilege of being at one of the nation’s top research universities – and playing for Lopez – runs deep.
“The University of Arizona is world-class university from an academic standpoint, and on an athletic standpoint,” he says. “I am currently a general studies major focusing on management and marketing. After graduation I hope to play at the major league level. Obviously, that’s going to take a lot of work, but I feel like Coach Lopez has prepared me for that.”
That preparation lies in the details, according to Lopez. “We really strive for a pursuit of excellence in everything we do,” he says. “From keeping the clubhouse clean to picking up a baseball with your bare hand versus your glove hand – little details that amount to big things, big accomplishments… I’m here with one goal in mind and that’s to help them reach excellence.”