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Bison Bios: Tim Lopes

STAFF REPORTS

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tim Lopes has just about all the tools that make him a reliable player--he has shown consistency at the plate, is adept in the field and best of all, he is a positive force in the clubhouse.

While these attributes are critical to the ball club, what some fans might not know is that Lopes isn't the first one in his family to don a Bisons' uniform. In fact, he is the second behind his older brother Christian, who played with the Herd last season.

The 2018 season marks Lopes' second year playing in the Blue Jays' organization after being acquired through a trade in September 2016.

He arrived in the Blue Jays' farm system from the Seattle Mariners, where he was originally a sixth-round selection in the 2012 Amateur Draft.

"It's been great," Lopes said about his time so far with the Blue Jays. "Definitely a quality group of people that run this organization and [I'm] just excited to be here, excited to put a uniform on and excited to play for an organization like the Blue Jays.

Throughout his Minor League career, Lopes has prospered in the categories of batting average and hits. He spent all last season in Double-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and set career highs in home runs (7) and RBI (50) and batted .271. At the conclusion of the 2017 season, Lopes was named an Organizational All-Star by MiLB.com.

By now, Lopes, a native of Huntington Beach, Calif., has settled in nicely to his new surroundings in Buffalo.

"I played with a lot of these guys last year, got to know a lot of them," Lopes said. "I can't say enough about the quality and group of guys we have on this team."

In 2018, Lopes has been a steady hitter in the Bisons' lineup all season, batting .278 with 66 hits and 14 RBI (stats as of July 18).

"Every day I'm trying to get better at something," Lopes remarked.

He persists to bring a determined mentality to the field and to help his team in every way possible.

"I try to play hard," Lopes said. "One of my favorite things to do on the field is just to do something to help the team win."

He praised the tutelage of Bisons' hitting coach Corey Hart to whom he owes part of his recent successes at the dish.

"Corey's been great this year and just keying in on some of the things he talks about, about you know, hunting the fastball and adjusting to the off speed… and showing up to work every day, ready to work, ready to get better and just trying to be consistent every day."

Lopes wears many hats for the team not only batting in different spots throughout the lineup on a game-by-game basis but also in the field--with the ability to run the gamut playing multiple positions. Throughout the season, Lopes has displayed the versatility to play second base, third base and even left field.

"This is the first year I've ever played outfield in my life, so it's definitely a new experience," Lopes shared. "It's something that I enjoy, just trying to be versatile. I know that's something people see as valuable."

Even with such a knack for playing wherever he is needed, Lopes has found a certain level of comfort with one position in particular.

"I'm obviously most comfortable at second. That's where I spend most of my time at but [I'm] just trying to focus on third and a little bit of outfield as well, just trying to be more consistent there and be more comfortable there."

While some utility players have a variety of glove choices when it comes to playing multiple positions, Lopes uses the same glove at two spots and for a good reason:

"Second and third I actually use the same glove. I figured I'm more comfortable with the glove I use at second, so I just use the same one at third."

As far as the outfield goes, Lopes is aided by one of his teammates to provide the different style of glove, which is typically longer and with a deeper pocket.

"I use [Darnell] Sweeney's glove," he said. "I don't even have a glove. I'm in the process of ordering one, trying to break one in but for now, I'm just using Sweeney's."

Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of Lopes' time in Buffalo is that his older brother, Christian was a member of the Bisons last season.

Christian is now part of the Texas Rangers organization playing for the Triple-A Round Rock Express. He has collected 70 hits and 36 RBI this season (stats as of July 18).

Spring Training 2017 provided Lopes a rare and unique opportunity that only a select few could ever imagine experiencing--being able to play alongside his brother at the professional level.

"It was amazing," Lopes recalled about the experience. "It was so much fun just seeing my brother on the other side of the field and being roommates with him at Spring Training. It was just an amazing blessing we both got to enjoy."

"He [Christian] is my best friend and hopefully we can be on the same team again."

Since the Lopes brothers are only separated by about a year and a half age difference, it wasn't the first time the duo teamed up on the diamond.

"I played three years of high school with Christian," Lopes said about playing with his brother at Edison High School in California. "We played on the same team when we were kids. We're like basically used to that. We played each other in the backyard growing up [and we have] just always been around each other. We're so close in age that we built a bond from so young just playing baseball."

Herd third baseman Jason Leblebijian recalls similar memories of his childhood. Much like Lopes, he also got a taste for playing the game of baseball with a sibling.

"I remember me and my brother played when probably he was a freshman and I was in seventh grade--somewhere around that age," Leblebijian remembered. "It was awesome. My brother was a catcher and I was the shortstop, so we kind of had that tandem going."

"Other than that, we always played Wiffle ball together. Those were the fun memories."

After years of playing side by side with each other, the Lopes brothers have formed cherished memories, but for Tim, the best one came fairly recently.

"My favorite memory I think was in spring training," Lopes stated. "We got to turn a double play in spring training. We did it at the high school level and I mean, that was really special."

"Getting to do that with Christian in a big-league uniform was definitely one of the best experiences I've had."

When it comes to players that know the Lopes brothers, varying takes were told to describe the similarities and differences both on and off the field between the siblings.

"Personality-wise, we are completely opposite," Lopes commented about him and Christian. "As far as some of the antics we have on the field, I think there are some similarities."

Leblebijian ironically noted the contrary:

"They have the same exact laugh," Leblebijian was quick to point out. "They are both great guys. They both have the same humor and their personalities are definitely very similar."

Leblebijian is well acquainted with the Lopes brothers. He lived with Christian while they were both at the Double-A level and this year, he lives with Tim Lopes.

Leblebijian indicated two distinct similitudes when it comes to the brothers.

"One is their work ethic. Every day they're both really good at sticking to their plans, sticking to their goals and working hard to get there."

"Second thing is, especially at the plate, their approach," Leblebijian specified. "They don't chase too many pitches. They are similar in that way. They both just have a good approach at the plate, really stick to it and drive the ball really well."

Bisons' manager Bobby Meacham has also taken account of the way the brothers both resemble and differ from each other when they step into the box.

"Christian was a little bit stronger," Meacham recalled. "[He] was a little bit more aggressive, [had] a little bit more power."

Tim Lopes is listed at 5-11, 180 pounds while Christian Lopes checks in at 6-0, 185 pounds.

"Both of them were pretty selective at the plate… similar styles-line drive hitters basically."

He also shared what he believes each brother was capable of in the field.

"Out in the field… Christian was more of a quick twitch guy. It seems like Timmy is a little bit of a longer strider, covers a little bit more ground on defense than Christian did… but very similar in their styles defensively also."

"It feels like Christian is a little more inquisitive," Meacham added. "He [Tim] is a little bit more sure of what he is trying to do. He has a better idea of what he wants to do right away versus Christian after the fact would ask a lot more questions."

Lopes has had a profound effect on the team not only on the field but off the field as well.

"He [Tim Lopes] means a lot to the team," Leblebijian emphasized. "Not only at the plate, not only in the field but in the clubhouse. He's always keeping guys loose, but he knows when it's time to work, which is really good."

"His ability to play multiple positions-he's been at second, third, short, left… he's a tough out, his numbers show it. No matter where he hits in the order, he's going to challenge that pitcher."

Meacham chimed in on his thoughts about Lopes:

"A little bit of leadership, a little bit of a kind of a stability type thing where you know what you're going to get out of him," Meacham commented about what Lopes means to the team this season. "He's very consistent in what he brings to the table every day."

"Any time you're with a team and you're the same guy every day, I think it rubs off on helping those guys become consistent."

When it came down to describing Tim Lopes, Leblebijian keyed in on one term:

"Competitor," he said answering without a second thought. "He's got this sense of humor off the field but once the game starts, you know he takes a lot of pride in what he does… just the way he competes at the plate. In his mind, it's like he should never get out, which is awesome."

Meacham used a separate adjective to label the multi-faceted Lopes:

"Prepared would be the best thing I can say. Every day he shows up ready to get better and ready to go out there and play the best he can play."

As the Bisons are focused on their second half of the season, Lopes provided insight into the culture of the team which can best be characterized by a keen sense of camaraderie.

"Everybody here is just so close. I think part of the reason is because a lot of these guys came up together," Lopes noticed. "I was fortunate to step into a situation where a lot of the guys have played for the last four years together, so everybody is just really comfortable."

"I mean, these are my brothers. I've only known some of them for a short amount of time, but everybody here is very cohesive. Everybody's got the same plan and the same goal in mind and it just works."

Lopes, still at the ripe age of 24, offered advice for aspiring professional baseball players.

"Just show up and be the same guy every day, show up and work hard every day," Lopes commented. "Hard work pays off… good things will happen when hard work meets opportunity."

Tim Lopes' story goes to show that while baseball has its ways of bringing people together, brotherhood lasts a lifetime.