Lopez passes on D-Rays

headed to Grossmont

August 04, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

In June the Tampa Bay Devil Rays made pitcher Diego Lopez's dreams come true by selecting him with its 31st pick in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft.

It was a dream he had been working toward since he started playing baseball at Calexico High. It was a dream that became even more of a reality during his junior year at Calexico when he was looked at by pro scouts.

But the 17-year-old Lopez's dream of donning a pro uniform will have to wait awhile as he has decided to play at Grossmont College in El Cajon.

Shortly after Lopez was drafted, contract negotiations began but didn't go far.

When many athletes sign contracts, one of the first things out of their mouths is, "It's not about the money."

Things were different with the 6-foot-4 Lopez. The reason he didn't sign was primarily based on money.

"It really was a dream come true when I got drafted," said Lopez. "But I expected them to offer a little more than what they did."


The breakdown of the offer was basically an $850 a month contract, with no bonus. It was the bonus money that was the difference.

"I thought they'd offer me like at least a $40,000 signing bonus, but they just offered the $850 with no bonus," said Lopez. "So that's probably the main reason I didn't sign."

The Devil Rays' loss will be Grossmont's gain as Lopez has committed to play for the Griffins in the spring.

While at Calexico Lopez made a name for himself as a catcher first and foremost, then as a pitcher. At Grossmont he will be used exclusively as a pitcher. While there he will be under the watchful eye of Tampa Bay area scout Craig Weissmann of San Diego.

It was Weissmann who pushed the decision to take Lopez and it is Weissmann who Lopez credits with his continuing improvement on the mound.

"He's really taught me a lot about pitching and my mechanics. He's taught me things I didn't know and I can tell that those things are making a difference," said Lopez. "That's one of the reasons why I decided to go to Grossmont. I know that he's close by and he can work out with me and watch me."

Playing for Grossmont will allow Lopez to gain more experience and improve his level of play as he will face tougher competition than high school.

Depending on how things go after his first season with Grossmont, Lopez could come to an agreement with Tampa Bay or could decide to re-enter the MLB draft and take his chances with another team.

Either way, Lopez said he'll make the best of his time playing for the Griffins.

"I think things will work out for me and I think I'll end up doing pretty good out there," said Lopez. "Every year since I was in high school, in all the sports I played, I just kept improving. And I think the same will happen when I go out to Grossmont. I just hope I can keep getting better so I can sign with a major league team."

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