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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Javy Lopez got a perfect pitch his rookie year; Saw major league pitches over 15 seasons

Originally published Jan. 15, 2014
Javy Lopez got that pitch right down the middle of the plate and, when he was done with it, the game was tied.

When Lopez was done with it, it was in Joe Robbie Stadium's upper deck, according to The Associated Press.

"I didn't even feel it. I just walked toward first base and watched it," Lopez told The AP later. "When it bounced in the upper deck, I was the happiest man in the world."

Lopez was in his rookie season that year with the Braves in 1994, having seen brief time in two previous years. By the time he was done with his career, he'd seen time in a total of 15 major league seasons, made three All-Star teams and won a post-season series MVP award.

Also by the time Lopez was done, the catcher had hit 260 total major league home runs.

Lopez' career in baseball began in 1987, signed by the Braves as an amateur free agent, out of his native Puerto Rico. Lopez has also been known by his full name, Javier Lopez.

With the Braves, Lopez started in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He made single-A Burlington in 1990, then AA Greenville in 1992. In September 1992, Lopez debuted in Atlanta.

With the Braves, Lopez got into nine games in 1992 and eight games in 1993. He then got his first regular time in the majors in 1994. In 80 games that year, Lopez hit .245, with 13 home runs.

In 1995, Lopez improved his average to .315, he hit 14 home runs and helped the Braves to the world championship. That October, in Game 2 of the World Series, Lopez helped the Braves to the win with a tie-breaking, two-run home run.

"He's had a remarkable year," Braves manager Bobby Cox told The AP afterward. "He's hit home runs, he's got a great throwing arm. And he's been a clutch guy."

Lopez hit 23 home runs in both 1996 and 1997. In 1996, Lopez earned NLCS MVP honors. In 1997, Lopez made his first All-Star team. In 1998, Lopez made his second All-Star team, he also hit 34 home runs.

In 1998, Lopez credited the influence of teammate Andres Galarraga with helping him have the year he had.

"He made me believe that Turner Field is not a pitcher's ball park," Lopez told The AP in spring training 1999. "He proved that it's not impossible to hit at least 40 home runs there."

Lopez eventually did hit 40 home runs there. After two seasons under 20, Lopez hit a career-high 43 home runs for the Braves in 2003.

For 2004, Lopez left the Braves and moved to the Orioles. He then stayed there in 2006, before ending his career with the Red Sox.

In spring 2008, Lopez finally announced his retirement, after taking one last shot at the Braves. After his announcement, Lopez drew praise from longtime teammate Chipper Jones.

"He was a fan favorite in Atlanta," Jones told "Everybody loved Javy. His teammates loved him. He was a great guy."

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