|Lopes Has More To Do|
Lopes is ready to start fine-tuning his game
Christian Lopes, a seventh round pick in 2011, had to wait until last year to officially make his professional debut and he quickly proved he was worth the wait, hitting a solid .278 with 27 extra-base hits in 59 games between short-season Bluefield and Vancouver. While he admits his confidence is growing, he also realizes that he has more to do going forward.
"Overall I felt like the year was good," Lopes said. "I learned a lot about consistency, what pitchers will do to us, how to keep your body in shape every single day.
"That's the most important thing -- I feel like the first year is the year to do that and I feel like it was a successful in that aspect. Obviously I have a lot to learn and I'm excited."
No matter how talented a player is, every first-year pro has to go through the experiences of playing every single day, playing under lights consistently for the first time, how to develop a workout programs that works for them, how to handle the long bus rides from stadium to stadium, and things of that nature.
After that foundation has been laid and those experiences are no longer new, the next step is simple in theory but hard to implement.
"Consistency -- I know my swing. I know what I do. Obviously I still have a lot to learn but just knowing how to show up every single day and get ready for the game, which is the test -- you practice, work hard, study what pitchers are going, what kind of guy is he, just stuff like that.
"It's just getting in the box and battling every single day, and just learning how to keep your focus on the whole year. That's a big part of what I learned."
One of the hardest things on first-year pros too outside of the inevitable first experiences is how to balance expectations with the final results.
"I was very excited with how it went," he reiterated. "I got an opportunity to play with [Vancouver] towards the end of the year and get a ring. It couldn't have gone better.
"I wanted to get out there and just learn. Obviously everyone wants a good year. They all want to hit .300 with 25 bombs but that's not always going to be the case. I was very happy with [last] year and hopefully this year will be as good if not better."
Now that he knows what to expect and not only gotten his feet wet at the professional level but had some success along the way, Lopes says he can now begin to fine-tune his game.
"I am working on a couple of things with my swing," he said. "I want to be more consistent with it. It's not really major things, just the way I get my foot down and just blend it.
"Instead of getting it down too early, I want to get it to a blend where I can feel it forward movement and attack the ball. I'm starting to have an idea of what pitchers are trying to do and instead of putting my foot down and just reacting I can kind of do both. It's hard to explain.
"And defensively work on my first step, shifting to the right spot in certain counts and with certain hitters, and making sure if it's a 3-0 fastball that's going to probably try to pull it so I want to move over to the middle and anticipate the ball being hit up the middle so I can possibly make the play.
"There's a lot of little things like that. Every aspect [of the game] is what I want to key in on. I want that unquenchable thirst for perfection."
While he does seek perfection and fully admits that his game still has a long way to go, he can't help but believe that in one short year that he is a much better ball player today.
"I feel a lot better just in the way I approach the game. I've had a lot of great instructors here [with the Blue Jays] and I've learned numerous things already about the game, and it's only been my first year.
"I have a lot more to learn but I feel a lot more confident. It's a long career though and I still have more to do," he concluded.