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Inside the Bisons: Lopes follows in his brother's footsteps

Tim Lopes remembers it clearly, even though it was years ago.

His dad was going to sign up both Tim and his brother, Christian, for youth baseball.

"I remember like it was yesterday even though I was so young, he was signing us up, my brother and I and I was so excited to play and my brother was actually crying. He didn't want to play," Tim said. "I know I probably shouldn't say that … but he didn’t want to play. It was funny because I was so excited but I was really weak when I started playing baseball. Christian was amazing. It's funny how things worked out."

How it worked out is that both Lopes boys went on play high school baseball in Huntington Beach, Calif. Both were drafted out of high school and went on to play rookie ball.

Christian was drafted in 2011 by the Toronto Blue Jays. Tim, a year and a half younger, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2012.

But soon enough, Tim was following his older brother into the Toronto organization. In 2017 he was traded to the Blue Jays and spent the year in Double-A New Hampshire while Christian was with the Buffalo Bisons in Triple-A.

No surprise that Tim is again following big brother, starting 2018 with the Bisons and breaking out as one of the hottest hitters in the International League.

"We've just been so close our entire life," Tim said. "We've been on the same team our entire life. So when I got traded to the Blue Jays it was almost like well, this is what I'm used to – seeing my brother on the same field and being in the same uniform as him. It's just been really cool."

Of course baseball changes pretty quickly and playing in the same organization lasted only a season. Christian declared free agency and signed with the Texas Rangers, moving to the Pacific Coast League this year. But not before he gave his younger brother some inside info on Buffalo.

"Christian and I, we're best friends. We're just as close as brothers can be," Lopes said. "Of course he gave me the lowdown on Buffalo, the weather, places to live, places to eat. He's given me all the information that I need."

The baseball production though, that's all Tim.

The infielder who has played mostly at second base batted .403 through May 6. Though he has dipped below .400, Lopes still leads the International League with a .352 batting average, ranks third in on-base percentage (.406) and has four stolen bases.

"Obviously Tim started out great," Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said. "I want to hopefully encourage him that he can just be the same every day. You know the hits are falling in right now but sometimes those line drives can be outs, but your approach needs to be the same. … At the plate he's been outstanding. On the bases he's been really good. He's got a good idea what he's doing not only stealing bases but in being aggressive to take the extra base. And he turns the double play really good. We just want to get him out there as much as possible and see how good he can be."

Meacham is familiar with the Lopes brothers, having worked with Christian the last three years. And while this is his first season with Tim, he sees one important similarity – their love of the game.

"I think the way they love baseball, you can tell that's in their DNA," Meacham said. "They just want to get out there. They want to play every single day, which doesn't typically happen. A lot of guys want time off. A lot of guys like to get a break from it because it is hard to get evaluated in your job every single day by like a lot of people. But these two, they really want to perform every day. They don’t care about the scrutiny of every-day performance. They like to go out and play baseball and get better at it."

It's been that way ever since they were little kids and their dad signed them up for a league in Southern California. They loved to play and they loved to challenge each other to get better.

"I mean just being his little brother, I've always chased him," Lopes said. "I wouldn't say there was competition like I wanted him to do poorly or anything like that. It's always been a competition between me and him just with who's going to be better but it's always been a friendly competition. But yeah, I've chased my brother my entire life always trying to be as good as him. But on his side, he's like, 'Timmy let's go.' He's always been the one pushing me. It's been cool."

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