Author's note: The day I decided to write this, I discovered a post about Mickey Lopez had already been written on this site by Jeff Sullivan in 2010. I will do my best to try to take a different angle on this former player, but I apologize for another post about this player. I honestly thought no one else would remember this dude.
The Seattle Mariners called up second baseman Jose Lopez at age 20 in 2004, but he wasn't the only Lopez called up to Seattle that season. While Jose played in 56 games that season and .232 with five home runs, there was another Lopez to play second base in '04, if only for a brief stint.
Mickey Lopez was one of the fortunate ones. Ten years older than Jose when he made his major league debut as a pinch-runner on Sept. 6, 2004 at home against the Cleveland Indians, Mickey's best statistical game (more on that later) was also his last, a 3-0 loss to the Texas Rangers in a season with 99 total losses.
Jose Lopez went on to play six more seasons for the Mariners before moving on to Colorado. The elder Lopez would never make it to the majors again.
Sports are practically a way for people to get paid to play games children play at recess on the fields and blacktops. To even make it to an Independent League baseball team or to play on a professional basketball team in Europe can be the most advanced realization of that child's dream.
Baseball of all professional sports has the most depth. In this age, major league teams usually have four or five minor league farm teams. Average 25 players including major league roster, and you would have at least 3,750 players at any given time playing in Major League Baseball organizations.
Mickey Lopez was one of those almost 4,000 fortunate ones in 2004. Before that, Lopez was a teammate of Alex Rodriguez at Westminster High School (Fla.) in 1992. After attending Florida State University, Lopez was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 13th round in the 1995 draft. He's featured on a 1999 Topps prospect card with Adam Kennedy.
Lopez hit .324 in 57 games for Rookie League Helena in 1995. He bounced around the minor leagues, reaching AAA between '98 and '02. Yet, he had never cracked a major league roster. In 2000, he hit .335 with a .417 on-base percentage in 242 plate appearances for AA Huntsville.
The Mariners signed Lopez as a free agent on April 10, 2003. That season, he hit .275 (his highest since 2000) and was named the Tacoma Rainiers' team MVP and best defensive player. Released but then resigned the subsequent year, Lopez had 10 home runs and 41 RBIs before his September call-up to the show.
Mickey Lopez was one of the fortunate ones. He donned a major league uniform and took an at-bat. He's not Joe Hietpas, who played one game with no at-bats in '04 for the New York Mets and never took a big league field again. Lopez won't have that trivial piece attached to his name.
Lopez's first and only hit came in what would be his final at-bat in the majors. Sullivan's article describes that at-bat if the reader desires more information on this. But Lopez demonstrates the depth and fluid dynamism of baseball rosters.
After those few games in the majors, Lopez was released then once again signed to a minor-league contract by the Mariners. In late March of '05, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for cash. Lopez, a team's player of the year, was a victim of the nature of baseball and it's ever-changing rosters. Lopez, at one point, had a spot on a Major League team's 40-man roster. Less than a year later, he would never make one again.
Lopez's salary in '04 was $300,000, according to Baseball Almanac. Someone my age and in my position would have to work 10 years to make that money. Lopez was granted free agency in October of 2005 Retrosheet has no more transactions involving a Raymond Michael "Mickey" Lopez.
The game was kind to Lopez; he earned his chance to play in the majors. The game was cruel to Lopez; moves had to be made, and he was out of a job. Grit and determination are great but can only carry people so far in life. Sometimes, you're just the odd man out.
Ten seasons after his debut, Lopez is a sales associate at Southeast Property Investments in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area. Lopez is from Miami. Ten years after his last at-bat, he may only be recognized as the local real estate agent and not someone who once had a hit of a major league pitcher. His career ends with a .250 average -- one hit in four at-bats.
Mickey Lopez was one of the fortunate ones. Similar to many other professional athletes who have come and gone, he may wish he had played longer, had another season, another chance to play in the majors. Now, he's one of the common folk who watches the games instead of playing.
Are there any players similar to Mickey Lopez in any sport you remember having brief careers? What do you remember about them?