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Athlete of the week — Imperial second baseman playing hurt and excelling

April 02, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

When Imperial High School baseball players don't feel like practicing or giving it everything they have, all they need to do is look at teammate Julian Lopez for motivation.

All season Lopez has given the proverbial 110 percent, not complaining and approaching every at-bat and defensive play as if it's the seventh game of the World Series.

And he's done that while playing with a dislocated kneecap.

Despite the hindrance, Lopez has competed at the highest level and helped carry Imperial to a 2-1 mark in the Lions Tournament in San Diego last week, finishing with seven hits, four runs, three RBI and two doubles.

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While he put up the numbers individually, for Lopez having team success was all that mattered.

"I thought everything went well for us as a team. I would've liked to have gotten to the championship, but it really wasn't a disappointment. We were just a game short," said the 17-year-old senior. "For all the seniors it was our last time at the Lions Tournament. For some of us it was our third time there, so it would've been nice to make it to the championship. But even though we didn't make it I thought we played really well."

The tournament performance couldn't have come at a better time for Lopez and his teammates as they started 0-2 in the Imperial Valley League.

"We just hadn't been playing up to par in league and we really weren't playing with a lot of intensity. Starting the way we did in league was kind of disappointing," said Lopez, the team's second baseman. "But hopefully when we start up again with league, how we did in that tournament will rub off. Really, the pressure isn't on us, the pressure is more on the other teams to beat us because we are 0-2."

No matter where the pressure lies, Lopez will continue to hold down second base and contribute offensively, hitting in either the five or six slot.

Said Tiger coach William Estes of Lopez: "He does a hell of a job for a kid that's playing with basically half a knee. What he's been able to do just shows his dedication and commitment just to go out there and play in pain.

"I think the kids on the team have a lot of respect for him because he's out there playing hurt and just leading by example. He's out there every day working as hard, if not harder, than everyone else on the team. He's the type of player you really want on your team."

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