March 9, 2010
WICHITA, Kan. – The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission announced the official watch list for the 2010 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award delivered by Papa John’s Pizza. Fifty-three catchers were nominated for the award including Florida State redshirt junior Rafael Lopez. The award is given annually to the top Division I collegiate catcher.
Lopez is in the midst of his second season as the Seminoles every day catcher. Last year, the Wellington, Fla., native made the transition behind the plate for the first time in his career after serving as a middle infielder all throughout high school. Lopez began his college career at Boston College where he redshirted his freshman season. He left Chestnut Hill after one season and enrolled at Indian River State College where he hit .375 with seven home runs, 43 RBI and 18 stolen bases. As an everyday middle infielder at IRSC, Lopez earned first team Southern Conference accolades and was selected to participate in the Florida Junior College All-Star game.
In his first season at Florida State in 2009, Lopez started 47 games behind the plate and finished the season with a .989 fielding percentage committing just four errors in 357 fielding opportunities. He threw out 42.2 percent of would be base stealers and was a perfect 4-for-4 in throwing out runners in an April 14 contest against Florida in Tallahassee. Offensively, Lopez hit .287 in 54 games recording four doubles, four home runs and 29 RBI. He finished third on the team in total sacrifices with 11, while posting a .360 on-base percentage.
This year, Lopez is hitting .357 in nine starts behind the plate. He currently is tied for the team lead in doubles with four, while posting a .486 on-base percentage. Defensively, Lopez has just one error to his name in 64 fielding opportunities.
“This is just a real honor,” said Lopez. “It’s nice to see that people have recognized the hard work that I have put into being a catcher over the last two years, a position I never played before coming to Florida State. I am going to continue to work hard to help my team win and hopefully get to Omaha.”
The watch list will be narrowed down to 10 semifinalists, whom will be announced May 19, 2010. Ballots will be sent to the national voting panel at the end of May for a vote to determine the three finalists. The three finalists will be announced June 2, 2010 prior to the NCAA Regionals and Major League Baseball Draft. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 13th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on July 1, 2010.
Florida State’s Buster Posey, a two-time finalist for the Bench Award, won the award in 2008.