While many of his teammates got away during this week’s all-star break, Nicky Lopez took care of business.
The Omaha Storm Chasers’ newest infielder moved into a downtown apartment and put together a television stand.
“That was one full day,” Lopez said. “Another day, I was getting my car fixed. It wasn’t really relaxing.”
Working on the to-do list did, however, let the 23-year-old shortstop take his mind off baseball. After a rough series at league-leading Memphis in which he went 2 for 17 at the plate, Lopez welcomed that.
He returned to Werner Park on Thursday night with a clear head and collected three of Omaha’s eight hits during a 6-3 loss to the Redbirds in the second-half opener for both PCL teams.
Lopez has posted three multihit games in six outings at Werner Park since his recent promotion from Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Kansas City’s No. 6-rated prospect is 11 for 24 at his new home park.
“It’s much better than Memphis, that’s for sure,” he said. “It was a pretty tough one there last weekend.”
Omaha entered Thursday’s series opener with Memphis batting just .214 against the Redbirds. Still, the Chasers were competitive against the reigning PCL champions on the road as they wrapped up the first half of the season. Manager Brian Poldberg said his team performed well last week.
“We went in there and won the first two. And in the five-game series, we played well,” he said. “We had a chance to win all five. Their lineup is solid from top to bottom. And their pitching is good. If you give them a chance, they’re going to take advantage of it. When you play the best team in the league nine straight games when you’re kind of on the verge of getting something going, it makes it a little tougher.”
Adolis Garcia and Luke Voit both hit long home runs off Omaha starter Zach Lovvorn as Memphis built a 6-0 lead Thursday. The Chasers got their three runs on Cam Gallagher’s homer in the sixth.
Lopez hit his first triple since being promoted, but he was stranded in the third inning. The former Creighton standout added singles in his last two at-bats to push his Triple-A average up to .317.
This was only his 10th game, however. The Illinois native is still going through an adjustment period.
“I was talking to someone today about what was the difference between Double-A and Triple-A,” he said. “These guys are just more polished. They throw their off-speed (pitches) whenever, wherever. It doesn’t matter the count. I’m not really used to that. And I’ve just got to keep getting used to that. And the game here is a little bit faster, obviously.”
Lopez pointed out that a number of Redbirds have been in the majors, including Thursday’s starting pitcher, Austin Gomber, who has made more appearances for St. Louis this season than for Memphis.
“It’s good to be here just getting this experience and exposure,” Lopez said.
A Texas League All-Star while at Northwest Arkansas this season, Lopez had been looking forward to a potential return to Omaha this year. And the reception he has received has been grand.
“I expected a warm welcoming, but Omaha has been great to me,” he said. “It’s kind of cool to see how many people remember that I went to Creighton. Even in the on-deck circle, you see fans and they call your name, then you look and they say, ‘Welcome back.’ And you’ve never even seen this person before.
“It’s actually really cool to see how many people truly care and know that I spent three very important years of my baseball career here. ... I’m confident here. I’m comfortable here. I’m comfortable in Omaha. I’m familiar with the area. I just love this town. It’s like my second home away from Chicago.”