Going to his left: Arizona’s all-conference shortstop switches sides of the plateby Anthony Gimino on Feb. 18, 2012, under Sports
When the Arizona Wildcats baseball team played its first game at its new home Friday night, coach Andy Lopez saw something he had never seen before.
And it had nothing to do with Hi Corbett Field.
His all-conference shortstop — right-handed-hitting junior Alex Mejia — was batting left-handed for the first time.
Let us explain.
Mejia injured his left wrist in practice two or three weeks ago while diving for a ground ball, Lopez said, and the initial worry was that the injury could be serious.
“Boy, we were holding our breath,” Lopez said after his team defeated North Dakota State 3-1.
“We thought there might be an issue more than just a real bad sprain. It is just a real bad sprain. The MRI is as clean as a whistle.”
Lopez even had a doctor buddy who works for the Texas Rangers confirm that nothing else was going on in the wrist other than a sprain.
But while the wrist heals, Mejia is experiencing pain swinging right-handed.
The plan, Lopez said, was for Mejia to kind of take it easy, maybe do some bunting — generally just gut it out. But the shortstop had a different idea. On Friday afternoon, just a few hours before first pitch, Mejia told Lopez he wanted to bat left-handed.
“He’s never batted left-handed,” Lopez said.
“I said, ‘Give it a shot.’ He makes contact in his first at-bat, which I thought, ‘That’s pretty interesting.’”
And in Mejia’s second lefty at-bat, he singled up the middle.
“That’s Alex.” Lopez said. “I’m not shocked. Well, I’m a little surprised, but I’m not shocked. He’s a very unique young man.”
After taking left-handed batting practice before the game, Mejia — who grounded out to second base to end his night — looked very natural from that side of the plate.
Mejia hit .335 last season while starting all 60 games at shortstop. He batted .369 in conference games last season while earning first-team All-Pac-10 honors.
With the wrist injury, he batted ninth in the season-opener.
“If the game is on the line, he’s going to swing it for you (right-handed),” Lopez said. “It’s going to hurt like heck, but he’s going to swing it for you.
“He’ll be fine,” Lopez added. “A week from now, he’ll be fine.”
Yeah … but will he be a switch-hitter by then?