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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Mejia is a familiar name for Arizona baseball head coach Lopez

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OMAHA, Neb. — The relationship between a head coach and his team’s best player might be the most important in sports. For Arizona’s Andy Lopez, the relationship he has with Pac-12 Player of the Year Alex Mejia’s father is a major reason the Wildcats are now just one win away from the College World Series championship.

Alex Mejia is just like his father, Carlo, in all the right ways said Lopez, who has known him since the early 70s. Lopez and Carlo Mejia were fierce rivals in their respective Los Angeles high schools and continued their shortstop rivalry at the junior college and college levels, where Lopez attended UCLA and Carlo Mejia was the shortstop for Pepperdine, in Malibu, Calif.

“I think we went on two or three recruiting trips,” Lopez said. “I know we went on one, we took the trip to Pepperdine. I asked him ‘Where are you going?’ and he told me Pepperdine and I said ‘Good, because I’m going to UCLA, and there’s only one shortstop.’”

After college, Lopez and Carlo Mejia’s paths would not cross again until a summer baseball camp Lopez and his staff held, that current shortstop Alex Mejia attended looking for college attention.

“From the day he showed up at our summer camp and had Mejia on his back from Sylmar, Calif., I said ‘Is your dad … ?’ and before I could finish, he said ‘My dad told me to say hello to you,’” Lopez said. “I said ‘If you’re anything like your father, I’m not going to let you go back to Los Angeles.’”

Three years later, Alex Mejia is a fourth round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals, a first team All-American, arguably the best shortstop in the country, and has his team just three wins away from his childhood dream: a national championship.

Alex Mejia’s parents had been watching his games from home whenever they could, but when the Wildcats defeated St. John’s two weekends ago and earned the right to play in Omaha, his mother wanted to watch her son play under the bright lights of TD Ameritrade Park in person.

“How many times are you going to see your son play in the College World Series, and see him play well,” Lopez said. “Those are things you do anything you can to get out here.”

The only problem was that the Mejias could not afford the trip up front.

“I know my wife wanted to go and we were going to forgo paying the mortgage for the month, but decided against it,” Carlo Mejia said.
Then the Mejias’ extended family came to visit and celebrate Alex Mejia’s trip to Omaha and brought a gift with them.

“My brother-in-law, my sister, my niece visit us and said, ‘We just wanted to congratulate Alex formally, because we don’t get to do it when he goes to Omaha,’” Carlo Mejia said. “They gave us a card, and I looked at the card and it said, ‘You’re going to Omaha.’ I didn’t think anything of it, you know.”

Inside the envelope was more than $1400 for him and his wife to see their son play in Omaha. Carlo Mejia and his wife packed up the car and headed 1,567 miles and 25 hours to Omaha, Neb., that night.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Carlo Mejia said. “I was in shock. I couldn’t say anything. I just kept looking at it, and looking at it. It was enough to cover the trip and watch him play the first two games.”

In his first two CWS games, Alex Mejia has two hits, two runs and no strikeouts against some of the best pitching in the country.
“It’s just a euphoric feeling,” Alex Mejia said. “I still can’t believe that we’re here, but here we are. Hopefully, this is something they can keep doing.”

Arizona’s next game is Thursday but Alex Mejia’s parents returned to California on Tuesday.

“It’s kind of like eating a sundae, and throwing that extra cherry on top,” Alex Mejia said. “We’re already here, that’s my sundae. But having my parents here is the cherry on top.”

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