On the steps that lead from the Hi Corbett home dugout to the field, there is a solid red line. It’s meant, coach Andy Lopez tells his team, to separate baseball and real life.
It gives context that the game the coach loves isn’t life or death. But inside those lines, players are expected to compete and give their very best.
That red line came to life last week. Lopez was hospitalized on Friday, and on Monday underwent triple-bypass heart surgery.
He’s currently in the intensive-care unit at a Tucson hospital. As of Tuesday, there was no timetable for his return to the other side of that red line.
Michael Lopez, Andy’s oldest son and a graduate assistant for the Wildcats, has been shuttling back and forth from Hi Corbett to the hospital. He said his dad , who turns 60 next month, is doing well.
“He’s in good spirits,” Michael said. “He’s already joking and being himself. He has a whole list of things that need to get done and is making sure my mom is taking care of them.”
“He’ll be fine. He’s young — well, he looks young,” a smiling Michael added.
One of the first things Lopez asked after coming out of surgery was if Michael had thanked all the coach’s former players and Arizona fans for their well wishes. He was happy to know his son took to Twitter to thank everyone.
“It’s definitely weird being out here without him, but you can still feel his presence out here and what he means to this program,” said Michael, whose younger brother, David Lopez, is a UA senior infielder.
The Wildcats began fall workouts on Monday. For the time being, assistant coach Matt Siegel will handle the position players, and pitching coach Shaun Cole will direct the team’s pitching staff.
Siegel played for Lopez at Florida for five seasons and was hired in 2010 as a UA assistant. He said he’ll run practices and coach the way Lopez has taught him.
“He changed my life,” Siegel said. “I’m a better husband and father because of the messages he shares with young men. He truly cares about his role as a teacher and a mentor. He loves his role as a college baseball coach.
“The first time I ever heard Coach Lopez talk, I was a junior in high school in Tampa and he came to talk at a baseball tournament. And from that moment forward, I knew I wanted to play for him. He’s one of a kind.”
When UA players were told of Lopez’s condition Friday after individual player workouts, junior first baseman Joe Maggi said he remembered one of Lopez’s favorite sayings.
“I instantly thought about how he always says, ‘Slow the game down,’ ” Maggi said. “Things just started going so fast and thoughts started racing through my head and I started worrying.
“I just slowed the game down, and I know Coach will take care of himself.”