Practice Makes Permanent For Lopez

Lopez has gotten off to a slow start at the plate

Before the emergence of power hitting second basemen such as Jeff Kent, Brett Boone, and Alfonso Soriano, second base was a position where great glove work and high on-base percentages were coveted. That's exactly what Trenton second basemen Gabe Lopez brings to the table.

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Gabe Lopez, the defensive magician, is coming off his best professional season since joining the Yankees in 2002. During 2005, Lopez spent the majority of the season with Trenton, hitting .291 in 82 games and committing just 7 errors in his 80 games at second base.

"He's a guy who was voted the best defensive second basemen in the league last year by the managers," said Thunder Manager Bill Masse. "I really can't find one flaw in his game defensively. Anything in his reach he goes and gets."

Lopez attributes his consistent defensive play to constant repetition and practice.

"The key to becoming good at anything is to practice," said the soft-spoken Lopez. "We had a saying in Spring Training that practice makes permanent, and hopefully if you practice fielding balls the right way over and over again, it will carry over to how you perform in the game."

Along with his magnificent solo efforts on the defensive side, Lopez was also a part of 85 double plays last season playing with both Trenton and Columbus.

"It sounds stupid but the key to turning a double play is getting the first out and if you can turn it into two it's just a bonus," said Lopez.

The solid defense continues to shine through for Lopez in this young season but his devolvement at the plate has defiantly taken a turn for the worse. As of May 3rd, Lopez is hitting just .200 with 12 punch-outs and 8 walks while his on-base percentage has slipped to .294.

"The biggest thing with Gabe is that he needs to keep the ball out of the air," said Masse. "Sometimes he gets himself into little man syndrome where he tries to hit the ball out of the park instead of making solid contact, which is his biggest strength as a hitter."

Lopez agrees with the comments made by his manager that he needs to revert back to what made him such a successful hitter just a season ago.

"I've been swinging at bad pitches," said Lopez. "My strength as a hitter is my ability to recognize a pitch and swing at strikes. So far this year my swing has been too big and that's why I've hit so many fly balls."

The slow start, along with the solid start of outfielder Justin Christian, has led to the demotion of Lopez in the batting order. Despite the fact he hit .282 at the top of the lineup and only .191 at the bottom last year Lopez seems unfazed by the move.

"As long as my name is on the lineup card I'm happy, because if I'm in the lineup I have the opportunity to help my team win games," added Lopez.

Lopez believes the early season struggles will be a thing of the past if he can regain his solid approach at the plate.

"I've really been trying to work on my approach during batting practice," said Lopez. "I hope I can get back into a mode where I only swing at good pitches."

The Thunder coaching staff believes that a better effort at the plate from Lopez would really help turn around the early season struggles the team has gone through (8-15).

"If he can get back to hitting line drives like he did for us last year, it would really add another dimension to our lineup," concluded Masse.

Gabe Lopez will never be mistaken for today's new aged second basemen who hit 30 homeruns and drive in 100 plus runs a season. But if the Yankees are searching for a highly skilled defensive second basemen who can contribute with the bat, Gabe Lopez is the perfect choice.

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