Arizona Head Coach Andy Lopez led his team to Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha on June 19. It was an off day for the Wildcats after defeating Florida State and UCLA earlier in the series. They could have spent the day recharging their batteries, but yet there they were, visiting sick children they didn't even know.
One of Lopez's adult daughters, Kerri, was with her dad as the team made their rounds, and she expressed why he was there.
"He has such so much grace for people, so much love and compassion -- this visit will be the most important thing about Omaha for him," Kerri said. "That's the reality of who he is."
That type of grace and compassion runs deep in Coach Lopez.
"For 34 years, Jesus Christ has been my Lord and Savior," Lopez said between visits. "By His grace, I can say with pure confidence, I have found my king. I have no clue what I would do without Him."
He means that.
According to Kerri, he has been getting up at 5 a.m. every day for as long as she can remember to spend time with the Lord.
"Whenever I think of my dad, I think of him waking up early to pray over the family," Kerri said. "He's so sacrificial. I've always felt like I've seen God through my father."
Kerri attends Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. Every morning, shortly after waking up, she checks her phone expectantly.
"By 6 a.m. he will have already texted Scriptures to me, or he'll say, 'I prayed this over you today.' He just covers me in prayer."
She is grateful for his spiritual leadership, knowing not every child grows up in such an environment. The college baseball world speaks about Lopez as someone who knows how to lead a team to Omaha.
In his 30 years as a head coach, his teams have a 1,085-664-7 record. He is just one of three coaches to lead three different schools to the CWS. He led underdog Pepperdine to a national championship in 1992. He took Florida to the CWS twice. And this is Arizona's second trip under his watch.
He considers all of those successes to be a gift from God, pointing out that, "Psalm 115:1 says, 'Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory.'"
As the hospital visits continued, a doctor told Lopez about a patient who wants to go to Arizona State University -- which of course is Arizona's in-state rival. So Lopez walked into the patient's room as if he were recruiting him.
"Let me tell you about Arizona," he said, drawing laughter from the patient, Lopez's players and everybody else within earshot.
After meeting with each child, and parents if they were present, he ended each conversation by saying, "God bless you." In a way, he was putting a spiritual covering over them just like he has covered his family all these years.
The Wildcats have not dropped a game during the CWS this year. They beat two-time defending champion South Carolina 5-1 Sunday (June 24) in the first game of the CWS finals, and are one win away from the championship.
On the other side of the spectrum, Florida State's James Ramsey took a seat at the postgame press conference at TD Ameritrade Park on June 21 after Arizona crushed the Seminoles 10-3 in Game 11, eliminating FSU from the series.
A reporter noted that the team appeared to be close this season, which led to a question about what brought them together.
"I think it all started in the fall," said Ramsey, the ACC Player of the Year and a first team All-American. "We decided to make more sacrifices than we had in the past. Guys were asked to make smarter decisions off the field. Just the things with eating, drinking, workouts.
"But the thing it comes down to at the end of the day is the team started a Bible study. We started hanging out more off the field, started having deeply invested relationships, and we have brothers in Christ in the dugout. You're going to sacrifice a lot more for them. I could go on and on about our faith lives together.
"I know you guys don't like to put a whole lot of it in the press, but that's the difference and that's really all I can point to."
Ramsey, a senior and the team captain, finished his career at FSU with class. In fact, he was selected as the 2012 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award winner -- an award given to the Division I senior who has notable achievements in community, classroom, character and competition.
The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Ramsey in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft earlier this month.
Lee Warren is an author and freelance writer based in Omaha, Neb. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/Baptist Press) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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