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New shortstop Lopez provides bright spots in Cougars' loss to Bees

Published: Saturday, June 30, 2012 11:18 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, July 2, 2012 7:12 a.m. CDT
(Jeff Krage – For The Kane County Chronicle)
The Cougars' Jack Lopez steals second base during Saturday's game against Burlington at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, one of his two stolen bases on the night. The Cougars wore orange and blue uniforms on Illini Night at the park.

GENEVA – A baseball nomad throughout his 19 years, new Cougars shortstop Jack Lopez wasn't fazed by his relocation to Kane County.

"Wherever you've got to go, you've got to go," Lopez said. "That's just the way that baseball and life is."

Adjusting to Midwest League pitching is a trickier matter, Lopez said, although he fared better than his teammates in Saturday night's 5-0 loss to the Burlington Bees in front of 8,901 fans at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

Lopez was the lone Cougar to notch two hits on the night, and he stole second base each time, once despite a pitch-out by the Bees. Offense from the 5-foot-9, 165-pounder is, at this early stage of his career, considered a luxury.

"His defense is unbelievable," Cougars manager Brian Buchanan said. "From what I've seen so far, he's one of the better shortstops, defensively, that we've had. He's a young kid, he's going to learn how to hit. He's going to grow up, get stronger. But he's doing fine, doing well."

Lopez's frequent moves during his youth were driven by his father, Juan, currently the Cincinnati Reds' bullpen coach under manager Dusty Baker. Juan Lopez was also part of Baker's staff with the Cubs as a bullpen catcher, making Chicago part of Jack's history along with stints living in San Francisco, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Florida, where he graduated from high school last year en route to being selected by the Royals in the 16th round of the draft.

Until turning pro, Lopez spent his summers visiting family in Puerto Rico, where he was born.

In addition to his father's major league ties, Lopez's sister, Aleimalee, plays for the Puerto Rican national softball team. An item in the Cougars' media notes indicates he is the nephew of former Royals big leaguer Onix Concepcion, though Lopez said Concepcion is actually a close friend of his father's who is "almost blood."

Lopez was called up to Kane County from the Royals' short-season Idaho Falls team on June 22 as part of a roster shakeup for the second half of the season. He expects to make his presence felt, saying he intends to bring "a little bit of life" to the Cougars.

"The guys will tell you, I love screaming, I love waking them up," Lopez said. "I'm a little hyper out there on the field, trying to spark up the team."

Despite his two hits against Bees fireballer A.J. Cole (4-0) on Saturday, Lopez is hitting .226 through his first week with the Cougars.

"It's tough," Lopez said. "I'm only 19 years old, and there are a lot of veteran guys out there who know what they're doing out there on the hill. A.J. Cole, I grew up playing against him [in Florida]. It seems like every time, it gets tougher and tougher."

Cole allowed the Cougars only three hits in his six innings, two to Lopez.

"I think it was more him than us," Buchanan said. "He just pitched a great game for six innings."

Meanwhile, Cougars starter Aaron Brooks also went six innings but allowed four runs on 10 hits, falling to 4-9 on the season.

The Cougars (5-4 second half) had won eight straight games against former manager Aaron Nieckula and the Bees before dropping Saturday's homestand finale.

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