Arizona Wildcats coach Andy Lopez will face an old rival in the first round of the College World Series — at least, most people think his opponent should be a rival.
But Florida State coach Mike Martin is actually what Lopez calls an “extremely close” friend.
And Lopez’ seven years coaching at state rival Florida from 1995 to 2001 did nothing to change that friendship, which includes sharing a deep Christian faith.
“We were friends before I took the Florida job, and then I took the Florida job … and we were still friends,” said Lopez, whose UA team will take on the Seminoles on Friday in Omaha, starting at 6 p.m. Tucson time.
“Before the games, we would be talking, laughing and giving each other a hug.”
Not that everybody appreciated the civility.
“One time, I will never forget, it was after a Florida State series, and I had my weekly radio show. A guy called in from Starke, Florida, which is outside of Gainesville. And he is upset,” Lopez said.
“We had a pretty good series against Florida State, so I’m thinking how could anybody be upset? I was actually looking forward to that show. And this guy calls and says, ‘You and Coach Martin, you have some kind of love-fast going on there. Man, that’s a Seminole, Coach. A Seminole. We don’t take kindly to that out here.’
“I call up Coach later and said, ‘OK, we have to hate each other now when we play.’”
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Arizona junior pitcher Kurt Heyer was selected a second-team All-American by the National College Baseball Writers Association on Wednesday.
Heyer (12-2, 2.28 ERA) has seven complete games in 17 starts — plus an outing at the Super Regional last weekend in which he pitched into the 10th inning.
He will get the start Friday against Florida State against a lineup that features NCBWA first-team All-American outfielder James Ramsey (.382, team-high 13 home runs) and second-team All-American first baseman Jayce Boyd (.389).
And the Wildcats don’t want to be trailing in the late innings. Florida State closer Robert Benincasa was chosen as a first-team All-American. He has a 1.25 ERA, with 51 strikeouts and just six walks in 36 innings.
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By now, Lopez presumably has been to a gift shop to browse the postcards.
He has a tradition when he gets to the College World Series. He always sends recruits a postcard with a message along the lines of: “You come to Arizona, and in June you’ll be stretching in Omaha.”
Lopez concedes that the concept of a postcard is a bit outdated; the jury is out on whether he really knows how to use e-mail, but he said someone on his staff is sure to deliver his message electronically.
“I’m old-fashioned,” he said. “I’ll still send postcards out. I still write hand-written notes to recruits.”