HICKORY, N.C. — Andy Lopez has been playing baseball since he was 3. He played catcher for the Lenoir-Rhyne University baseball team.
“I’ve had several knee surgeries because of it, too, but I love the position because I’m involved in every play,” Lopez said.
Lopez was raised in Illinois. His father was a dispatcher for Chicago Emergency Services for over 30 years and got Lopez started playing baseball.
During the Thanksgiving holiday in 2020, Lopez’s father, Lupe Lopez, was hospitalized with COVID-19. A few weeks later, so was his mom, Maria Lopez.
Within weeks, both died from the virus.
“I have gone through the hardest thing that I can imagine. But talking with my siblings, my girlfriend, I can face any hardship after dealing with their death. I miss them and I will always have a hole in my heart, but this hardship has made me stronger,” Lopez said.
Lopez had a few semesters left to graduate and considered leaving school and moving back home, leaving the game and the university he loves behind.
“But after talking with my family, I didn’t want to give up the hard work that my parents went through to get me here,” Lopez said.
With approval from the NCAA, the Bears community helped raise $40,000 for Lopez’s tuition costs.
This spring, Lopez graduated with a degree in sports and exercise science.
He is thinking about a career in law enforcement or being a paramedic, following his father’s love of emergency services.
“I want to thank the community for all of their support. I couldn’t have made it without them, and I will miss it here,” Lopez said. “I will miss Hickory and the team and the university.”