KC Royals: Nicky Lopez steps into excellent company

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /

KC Royals infielder Nicky Lopez isn’t enjoying the kind of season he had last year. Batting .239 with  24 games left on the schedule, he won’t come close to the .300 he hit a year ago to become the first KC shortstop to reach that mark.

He probably won’t win a Gold Glove after being inexplicably passed over in 2021 when his .987 fielding percentage led American League shortstops. And although he plays there a lot, the shortstop’s job is no longer his alone.

No, don’t look for Lopez to win any postseason awards based exclusively on play.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t receive any prestigious recognition.

He already has.

It came Thursday, when Major League Baseball announced Lopez is one of 30 nominees—one from each club—for the 2022 Roberto Clemente Award, one of the game’s most important and coveted accolades.

Count Lopez among a special and select group—simply being one of 30 players nominated for the award is an honor in and of itself.

KC Royals infielder Nicky Lopez is a good candidate for the Clemente Award.

The award honors Clemente, a Hall of Fame outfielder who spent his entire 18-year career with Pittsburgh and died on New Year’s Eve 1972 when a plane carrying him and others helping Nicaraguan earthquake relief efforts crashed. The recipient is “the player who best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

Lopez is playing only his fourth season in Kansas City but has already established himself as a force in the community. As is more comprehensively chronicled in the Royals’ Thursday news release, Lopez launched “Nicky #1’s” during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and, in conjunction with other groups, Zoomed with children to “inspire confidence, positivity and healthy lifestyle choices during those trying times.” The organization continues its work today and held an inaugural “Nicky’s #1’s Day at The K” this season.

The release also noted he works with the area’s ill and hospitalized, visiting patients at the University of Kansas Health System Hospital and spending time with children suffering from illnesses during their Dream Factory visits to Kauffman Stadium.

KC Royals fans have the chance to help Nick Lopez win the Clemente Award.

A selection process involving two components will determine this year’s Clemente honoree. One component is a committee consisting of Clemente’s three children, the Commissioner, and representatives of sponsor Capital One and television networks connected to MLB.

Fans comprise the other component and can vote here to select their choice among the 30 nominees. A Spanish ballot is here. Voting is open through 11:59 p.m. ET Oct. 5.

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Nicky Lopez is Kansas City’s 2022 Roberto Clemente Award nominee.