Catch me if you can

Senior captain a sparkplug behind the plate

by Alanna Grady / Beacon Staff • April 18, 2012

Bball
Geoff Lopes awaits a pitch. The cather is hitting .271 on the season.
Geoff Lopes awaits a pitch. The cather is hitting .271 on the season.

No matter where Geoff Lopes is on a baseball field, he makes his presence known.

Whether he is springing off his feet after a teammate has scored a run, trotting out for a conference on the mound with a pitcher, or stopping runs from scoring behind the plate, the senior catcher has made sure that he is a part of Emerson baseball’s every play.

Lopes, who played second base in little league baseball when he was younger, said that moving to catcher gave him a chance to be more involved in the game.

“I’m a kid that can get bored pretty easily,” said the broadcast journalism major. “I got bored standing out in the field. The catcher on my team quit, and I asked if I could go back [behind the plate]. I thought it was cool because you’re in on every play. If you lose focus for a second, everyone knows it.”

When Lopes was nine years old, his father, a former catcher, gave him his old Johnny Bench model catcher’s mitt. Jim Lopes was a former catcher himself, as well as his wife, Lisa.

Years after giving him his start in baseball, Lopes’ family can still be seen in attendance at his games. And although Lopes said that his father was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year, he still makes it to a majority of his son’s games.

“I don’t know how he does it,” said Lopes, who is originally from Falmouth, Mass. “He would go to chemo and come to my games at night. He puts things in the right place to make it to all our games. Our home games for him are close to a two-hour drive from our house, but he thinks nothing of it.”

Lopes added that his parents motivate him in field.

“I want to work hard just like they do and make it all worth it.”

Lopes has made a family of his own with the team, starting all four years of his collegiate career and becoming a captain for the Lions his junior and senior years. 

“I never had any brothers growing up, so all 25 of these guys are my brothers. Everybody is part of everybody’s family.”

Senior Ryan Garber has played with Lopes since they both started on the team as freshmen, though Garber said that the two met at Emerson’s accepted students day.

“It’s been the two of us out there every single game,” the shortstop said. “When we had to move off campus, it was a no brainer — keep the baseball house together.”

Since his freshman year, Lopes has had to make adjustments to his game. He has taken on more responsibility as a leader and become one of the team’s most reliable hitters.

“Freshman year, I wanted to be the toughest kid on the field,” Lopes said. “I hit the heck out of the baseball. I’d see a fastball and hit it a mile. Now I know that I can take a couple strikes and still have a good at bat. When there are two strikes, I have to shorten up the swing and make the pitcher work.”

This season, Lopes ranks second on the team in two categories, scoring 18 runs and tallying 17 RBIs respectively. He also leads the lineup with seven doubles. According to head coach David Hanley, Lopes led the Great Northeast Athletic Conference in throwing out would-be base steals for the past two years and is in position to do so again this year.

Garber said that Lopes is able to channel his intensity to benefit the team.

“[Geoff] is a sparkplug for this team,” Garber said. “He’s the kind of guy where, even if you’re not hitting, you’re excited that Geoff’s at the plate, because it feels like you’re out there hitting. He’s not going to let you down.”

Lopes’ passion for the game is evident in how he takes to the field every inning, sprinting out to his spot behind home plate, often before the opposing team’s players have even reached the dugout. He can often be seen pacing back and forth, conversing with the players at the top of the batting order when he’s in the Lions’ dugout.

Hanley said that although Lopes can seem intimidating at times, his ability to play well is a key to the Lions’ success.

“He can be a little overboard,” Hanley said, “but his performance is critical. He’s got a great approach at the plate, a free swing until two strikes. He doesn’t choke up. He wants to put people on base.”

Lopes said that something Hanley told him as a freshman made him reconsider the way he acted on the field.

“Coach said that it’s the guys who don’t talk that you have to worry about,” said Lopes. “I’m loud, I’m brash — that’s my personality. Now that it’s my last year, I try to keep the same intensity but lead a little more by example.”

Lopes hopes to put that brash, vocal personality to good use as a broadcast journalist after he graduates this spring. He says that he got his start narrating Red Sox games as a kid.

“Growing up, I used to mute the TV and do Red Sox play-by-play,” he said “I used to fall asleep listening to Joe Castiglione on the radio. Sometimes I’d mute the TV and have the radio on at the same time, to see how close they were.”

The Lions, with an 8-23 record, have seven games left in the regular season. Lopes says that he is going to take the time to enjoy the remainder of his collegiate career. And when it’s over, he’s still going to try to be involved — in any way that he can.

“I’ve only got a week and a half left before someone tells me I’m not good enough to play anymore,” he said with a big smile. I’ve been running around the fields with my mom and dad since I was three years old. The experience I got from that, I want to share with someone else. It would be fun to coach, but I don’t know if I have the patience for it. But whether it’s working with a team, working for a team … I love baseball. There’s no way I can stay away from it.”