College presents its challenges, but balancing athletics and family on top of academics can be problematic. It takes someone with a special tenacity to handle these responsibilities, let alone excel in each of them. Caleb Lopes has checked every box in each category.
Lopes is a junior at UWG and plays as an infielder for the baseball team. Lopes is also a father and husband. Each of these tasks requires close attention, but Lopes still undertakes these obligations without flinching.
He started his baseball career at Faulkner State in Baldwin County, Ala., where he grew accustomed to college life. He said this acclimation period helped him handle the daily demands of a student athlete. Last year, Lopes married and later had a child. While he takes these responsibilities head on, he knows to give credit where credit is due.
“I attribute everything to my wife,” Lopes said. “She is awesome. She helps me stay focused and helps with my schoolwork. She is the best roommate ever. My family is helping me out, and the coaches help me with whatever I need. Everything works out the way it should.
“It has been difficult, but at the same time, it helps me stay grounded and stay focused for them,” Lopes continued. “I have no ulterior motives; it is strictly family, God and baseball. I’m just trying to do the best I can for them and the school.”
Family is an integral part of Lopes’ life, so it is natural for him to thrive in a family environment. Lopes recognizes his teammates as brothers. After transferring from Faulkner State to UWG, Lopes recognized how close his teammates were and how they forged relationships outside of baseball. The camaraderie on and off the field helped Lopes adapt to his new setting. Being in a place that promoted team above individual made Lopes feel at home.
“When I got here, there was chemistry,” he said. “We would come together and do stuff like play paintball. Not to disrespect my former team, but there is a different atmosphere here at UWG.”
Solidarity can translate to game day success. Through the first 16 games of the 2016 season, Lopes’ batting average is .450, ranking fourth in the Gulf South Conference. He is leading the team in slugging percentage as well as runs batted in. This is a part of a maturation process as Lopes goes from team contributor to leader.
“Coach Fite told me in the summer that he wanted me to be a leader on the team. Even before I got here, I told myself, ‘If coach is looking to me to be a leader, I better be a leader.’ So I took that to heart. I knew I had to be a guy to lead the team on and off the field.
“I attribute my hot start to my winning nature,” continued Lopes. “I just have a desire to win. I think leadership comes with that when you want to win. I do not focus on the hot start. I just want to win and lead by example.”
He credited his blazing start to hitting right handed this year. Lopes said while he once batted on both sides of the plate, when he committed to batting right-handed, his game ascended. Batting right-handed comes naturally for him, which allowed him to exhibit his power and timing this year.
While leading a family and a baseball team, Lopes is also thriving in the classroom. This is a testament to his will to win in every facet of life. His willingness to lead by example and be accountable for those around him makes him the man for the job. He mentioned it is not always easy, but he does not see his responsibilities as a heavy workload; he views them as opportunities and gifts he must steward well.
Lopes remembers to prioritize and take it one day at a time. These principles have shaped him into a man, and, if he can sustain his athletic excellence, he may advance to the next level in the near future.
“I want people to say, ‘He is a winner, he plays hard and he loves baseball,’” Lopes said , referring to his individual goals. “Maybe one day I can make it to the major league; that is my ultimate goal. Eventually, I want to get drafted. I want to have a great year so people will say, ‘He is someone I want to watch one day.’”