He’s a hidden gem tucked beneath the surface of the New York Met hierarchy, a promising baseball leader quietly building an impressive managerial resume in the minor leagues. As Pedro Lopez’s vita grows it points more and more to future success managing a baseball team in the major leagues.
As the Binghamton Mets official scorer in every season since the franchise got off the ground in 1992, Steve Kraly is the curator of B-Met history. No one else has observed Binghamton baseball from it’s inception on a day-to-day basis like Kraly, and, Kraly, a former major league pitcher and the minor league teammate of Mickey Mantle knows the game of baseball well.
Kraly made a fascinating first guest to our new ‘All About Binghamton Baseball’ Tip-Off radio segment. My first question to Kraly drove to the heart of his experience watching and scoring Binghamton baseball games: “Steve, it was a big day yesterday at NYSEG Stadium with the Binghamton Mets taking on the first place Portland Sea Dogs in front of a capacity baseball crowd. Pedro Lopez has put together another fine looking baseball squad this summer in Binghamton. As a guy who has watched every B-Met team that has ever played in Binghamton, what makes the 2014 Binghamton team unique and special?”
Kraly compared the 2013 and 2014 Pedro Lopez B-Mets with the legendary 1992 Eastern League championship Binghamton team. That team, Binghamton’s maiden team, became the measuring stick against which all future Binghamton teams were measured. And, Kraly attributed much of the success of Binghamton’s two most recent successful B-Met squads with Lopez feeling these teams have taken on the same focus and intensity of their manager. According to Kraly, Lopez communicates well with everyone on his roster and inserts his players into spots that make them successful, two keys for winning managers at any level.
The more I’ve watched Pedro Lopez work over the last two and one-half seasons, the more and more impressed I am with his work. Professional and businesslike, Lopez is a great standard bearer of a baseball team. First off, he still looks like a baseball player, so it’s not hard to imagine him throwing on some catching gear and re-establishing his former presence behind home plate. Lopez is youthful and energetic but brings a seasoned and mature presence and poise to the B-Met dugout.
It’s interesting to watch Lopez relate to his young B-Met squad. Whenever a young B-Mets player makes an obvious gaffe, I make it a habit to zone in on the Binghamton manager. Sometimes nothing is said, and I assume for whatever reason Lopez has determined now is not the moment to instruct. But generally, he makes his expectations known.
For example, in one recent game, a B-Met runner failed to slide into third base in a force out situation that turned into a foot race between the runner and the third baseman to see who would reach the bag first. It was a close play turned into an obvious out when the runner failed to slide.
Lopez, coaching third base at the time couldn’t have been pleased, but he barely showed it. Instead, he moved to the runner under the guise of taking his running helmet back to the bench. You could see him exchange words, I assume instructions about the play. Then he tapped the runner on the rear as if to say ,”Back to work” and jogged back to the dugout. Lesson delivered. Case closed.
2014 marks the seventh year, Perdo Lopez has managed in the Met system and his 13th year as a minor league skipper. Over his time managing minor league teams for the Mets, Lopez squads have won 436 games and lost 359. That’s a 548 winning percentage.
Last year’s B-Met edition won a franchise record 86 games, earning Lopez 2013 Eastern League Manager of the Year honors. He was also named by Baseball America as the most likely Double-A minor league manager to manage in the major leagues.
When Lopez finally gets a call to skipper a major league team, he will join a fraternity of former catchers who later became major league managers. Perhaps it’s seeing the entire field in front of them and handling a pitching staff as a catcher, something Lopez does amazingly well from the manager’s seat. Perhaps it’s the leadership role that inherently comes from catching or the close communication professional baseball catchers generally maintain with their managers. Whatever the reason, many of those catchers turned skippers who have come before Lopez have forged successful managing careers in the big leagues.
From my perspective, the Mets have a valued asset in Pedro Lopez. I’ve watched the five most recent B-Met managers since I relocated to the Catskill Mountains and discovered the minor league baseball treasure in Binghamton, and Lopez stands out with the best. From my point of view, if the Mets fail to recognize the potential Pedro Lopez brings as a baseball skipper, they might one day realize ‘they lost a diamond while they were too busy collecting stones’.
*Qutoe source – Rachael Ann Nunes
(Photo Credit: David Monseur/MiLB.com)