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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Jay Johnson follows in footsteps of Andy Lopez


Arizona baseball head coach Jay Johnson signs team posters at the Baseball Alumni Reunion on Friday, Jan. 29. Johnson will follow in the footsteps of former coach Andy Lopez.

Andy Lopez led the Arizona baseball program as head coach for 14 seasons. In that time, he went 490-324-1, made 10 NCAA tournaments, the College World Series in 2004 and 2012 and won the national championship just four years ago. 

Now, head coach Jay Johnson comes in from the University of Nevada hoping to continue the success of a historically successful program that has won four national championships. Being the head coach of Arizona baseball is a job he considers a “dream come true.”

“This place to me is like being the manager of the New York Yankees in terms of where I want to be and where our staff wants to be,” Johnson said. “We’re excited to build the program back up from the ground floor and we’re enjoying the process and excited to start competing with this team.”

Johnson does not feel any additional pressure or motivation with replacing a guy like Lopez. He said he is already motivated enough to make Arizona baseball as good as it can be and that he looks at Lopez as more of a mentor. 

Johnson also said he is excited and honored to take over his position.

Both the players and alumni have embraced Johnson. He is excited to be a part of the great history and tradition of the Arizona baseball program and he looks to build upon it.

“It’s a different transition, but I think everyone just bought into what he was trying to teach,” senior outfielder Justin Behnke said. “It’s different philosophies, but I think everyone bought into it and it’s going good.”

Junior third baseman Bobby Dalbec said Johnson is pretty different from Lopez, but that he has enjoyed playing for both. Dalbec noted that with Johnson, a lot more individual time is spent on the field, which is something he thinks will help with development. 

Dalbec is one of the players Johnson will have the privilege of coaching. Last season, Dalbec hit .319, had 53 RBI and had 15 home runs in 55 games, which led the Pac-12 Conference. He was named on the second team of the D1 Baseball Preseason’s All-American list this season.

“The preseason honors and all that stuff is validation of a solid performance in previous years, so he has certainly earned that,” Johnson said. “He’s pretty special in terms of talent and what I’ve enjoyed the most about him is his willingness to want to take it to another level, both defensively and offensively. … That will have a positive impact on our team this year and for him as he moves along in the future.”

When asked what being an All-American meant to him, Dalbec said it really didn’t mean much to him and he doesn’t want to allow the honor to get to his head. Dalbec is focused on improving his game every day and looks to become more of an approachable vocal leader to the younger players on the team.

Arizona will open up the season on the road in two weeks with a three-game series against Rice University from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21. Rice finished 37-22 last season and is just one spot outside of the top 25.

“[It] doesn’t get much better than a perennial national power on the road the first weekend, in terms of sizing up where you’re at,” Johnson said. “We’ll have a much better idea of where we are two weeks from now than we do today and that will be a great test to see where we’re at.

Follow Brandon James on Twitter.

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