Pedro Lopez doesn’t want to be called “Skip,” and he doesn’t want the manager’s office at Isotopes Park to be called his.
“That’s Schaeff’s office,” he said, referencing Warren Schaeffer, and certainly that was the case. But last year’s Albuquerque Isotopes manager is now on the staff of the parent Colorado Rockies.
So Lopez, 53, a native Puerto Rican who is the eighth manager in Isotopes history, moves over. It’s his third year working with the Isotopes after serving as hitting coach in 2021 and bench coach last year.
Lopez is the quintessential baseball lifer — 13 years in the minors followed by a career as a coach and manager in the minors as well. In the Mets organization alone, he managed 12 seasons.
He insists he came to the Rockies with a willingness to serve however and wherever needed, and he wasn’t feeling the urge to skipper again.
But when recommended by Schaeffer, for whom he retains an obvious reverence, to interview to take over the Isotopes, he did so.
And now the managerial office at Isotopes Park belongs to “P-Lo.”
But first, it’s spring training in Arizona, where over the course of the next several weeks, the image clears on who will break camp with the Isotopes in April.
Lopez and Isotopes hitting coach Jordan Pacheco met with a gathering of media on Friday. Lopez articulated a seriousness about his responsibilities and old-school work-ethic expectations.
He mentioned how he once pulled then-Mets prospect Wilmer Flores out of a game for not running out a grounder, then took him aside, pointed to Flores’ replacement and talked about how the other player was getting Flores’ at-bats, fielding opportunities and chances to develop and impress.
“Everything is personal to me,” Lopez said, and he wants his charges to feel the same way.
It otherwise was a wide-ranging, informal and free-form conversation about baseball in general and the challenges and rewards of working Triple-A in particular.
And fairly serious, though not totally. The Journal teed up a few questions for Lopez listed here. Answers were edited for length.
Journal: You were a catcher as a player. Do catchers make the best managers?
Lopez: Some people think they do because (catchers) have the whole game in front of them. But I think that anybody can become a good manager. As long as you become a student of the game, it allows you to become a good manager. I was a student of the game.
Journal: What is memorable about your playing career — 13 years in the minors?
Lopez: I always tell guys I was a bad hitter, so that when they look me up on Google, they can see, ‘Well, you weren’t that bad.’ Google exists so you can’t lie to players. … I think in 1996, one of the reasons I went down to Double-A (El Paso) was to help (eventual Brewers right-handed pitcher) Jeff D’Amico to try to get him ready for the big leagues. That was accomplished at the half, so I want to say I had an impact on that.
Journal: How do you feel about the automated balls and strikes calls, which return to the Pacific Coast League this year?
Lopez: I think it takes away the human side of the game. Time will tell if that will reach the big leagues or not. Being a catcher, you have something to say. You can talk to an umpire. If your pitcher is a sinker-baller, you can say, “Hey, this guy is going to be at the bottom of the strike zone all night, so be ready for it.” And the umpire will give you some of those pitches. Now, with the automatic strike zone, you can’t get that. That’s taking the human element out of the equation.
Journal: Since there’s no point in your arguing balls and strikes as a manager, will you get ejected from a game this season?
Lopez: (Laughs). I will. … I will. It’s always been my mojo that I don’t want (umpires) to say, “here we go again.” I want them to listen to what I have to say because I have a valid point. I’m not going to argue bang-bang plays. I will argue out by a step, safe by a step. I won’t argue every call. … but I will get thrown out. Trust me.
Journal: Spring training in Arizona vs. spring training in Florida: Which do you prefer?
Lopez: I think Arizona. I like the ballparks in Arizona better than in Florida even though the weather is a lot nicer in Florida at this time of the year. But I love Arizona. If there’s a place I would move from Puerto Rico, it would be Arizona.
Journal: We’ve had the U.S. Indoor Championships in track and field here. Were you a track and field guy, and in any case, what would be your event?
Lopez: (Laughing) I wasn’t fast enough to be in a track and field. If there was an event … I would say the 100 meters. But not for me to run. That’s one that I like to watch because it’s intense, it’s quick and you can’t blink or you might lose all the action.
Journal: If managers could have “walk-up” songs at the ballpark, do you have one in mind?
Lopez: I do not and please (turning to Isotopes employees) no walk-up songs for me. That’s for the players. … I do love music. That’s one of the things that always will be on in my office. I’ve got everything on. My favorite music is salsa. I grew up listening to it. I will always have music in my office. The difference is when we win, it will be a little bit louder than when we lose.
Journal: How do you want to be evaluated at season’s end, as a manager?
Lopez: As a guy that every step that he took, he can leave something positive for someone to follow. That’s how I live my life. It’s never been about the money, the titles or whatever. It’s always been about trying to make people better. At the end of the day, if I’m going to have a 30-man roster, another six guys on my staff, if I can touch their lives so they can be better people, I’m fine with it.
Job: Isotopes manager, 2023
Resides: Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
School: Arizona Western College
As a player: 13 seasons professionally with the Padres (1988-1994), Brewers
(1995-96) and Astros (1998-00) organizations. Primarily a catcher, batted .247 with 49 homers in 909 games.
As a manager: 977-973 in 18 minor league seasons. Also has managed and coached in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Dominican Republic winter ball since 2013.
Personal: Wife Gladys, twin daughters Leslian Marie and Lainey Marie