Christian Lopes has always turned heads on the baseball field, even if he didn’t want to play initially.
The middle infielder was the U-13 Player of the Year in 2008 and a member of the 18U USA Baseball National Team that finished in fifth at the World Championships in 2010 alongside players such as Lance McCullers and Fransisco Lindor.
“My dad told me he wanted us to play baseball when he was just messing around with us in the backyard,” Lopes said. “Maybe (the early pressure got to me) a little bit, but my dad always did a good job of raising my brother and me to keep a level head. It was cool growing up like that.”
His brother, Tim, is a second baseman in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
The middle infielder, in his first season with the Express, continues to be a key figure in the Round Rock lineup and won the first individual award for the team last week as PCL Player of the Week.
He had multi-hit games in six straight games and combined to hit 12-20 with three doubles, a triple, three home runs, nine RBI and nine runs scored when the Express were on a road trip in Las Vegas and Salt Lake.
“It was like a bottle that had been plugged up that just exploded. He went off for a week straight. It was fun to watch,” Express manager Jason Wood said. “That was something that was building because he’s been doing things off the field that have started to help on the field. I hope he carries that into the rest of the season.”
It’s not the first award for the former seventh-round pick and it certainly won’t be his last. But he’s trying to keep things in perspective.
“It feels good anytime you get an honor,” Lopes said. “It’s a long season and one week doesn’t determine how the season goes. If you keep that in perspective, I think it’ll be all right. I wish I would have started off the season a little better, but it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish.”
A five-star Baseball America prospect coming out of high school, the Huntington Beach, California-native committed to play baseball at the University of Southern California before eventually signing a pro contract with the Blue Jays.
He said looking at the player that he is now, the instruction and amount of repetition he received in the Toronto organization far exceeded what he could’ve gotten in college.
Lopes and the Express wrap up a four-game series against the Omaha Storm Chasers tonight at 7:05 p.m. and host the Colorado Springs Sky Sox for five games beginning Friday night at 7:05 p.m.
Lopes most recently hit .261 with six home runs and 40 RBIs last season for the Buffalo Bison, the Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays.
Since coming to Round Rock, he’s hit at a furious pace and for more power, ranking second on the team with seven home runs and 32 RBIs and seventh among active players with a .259 average. He his home runs in back-to-back games earlier this season for the first time in his career.
“I think I’m just sticking to what I’ve done in the past,” Lopes said. “The power numbers in the PCL are up anyway so I worked on a few things this offseason and I’ve been trying to put in into what I do.”
Wood had a far more technical explanation for the boost in offense, saying he’s lowering his had slot to create a better launch angle, thus creating more power.
“Christian carries himself around here like a true professional,” Wood said. “He leads by example and he plays the game the right way. He’s great to have around the clubhouse and you know when he comes through the door, he’s going to be ready to play.”