SAN FRANCISCO -- It could be suggested that Javier Lopez's path to the Major Leagues began with the first few wobbly feet he traveled on a bicycle.
Lopez's mother, Sarah, sent him in the only acceptable direction for any child: forward.
She decided that once the training wheels were removed from Javier's bike, they'd never be reattached. Nor would the sun set with Javier's objective unattained. He would complete the transition from training wheels to two wheels in one afternoon. She made sure of that.
For Sarah Lopez, this was about more than Javier's learning to ride a bike.
"This was in the '80s, so there's no helmets, no knee pads, no nothing," Lopez said. "It was just get on the bike and push and push, and I kept falling over. I wanted to quit and pick another day. She's like, 'No. This is it. We're going to do it today.' She didn't allow me to quit on myself. And that's something that still rings true to this day. ... I kind of think about that at times when I'm feeling down -- never quit on yourself. That's one of the biggest lessons I got."
Lopez's professional career reflects the determination his mother nurtured. The July 31, 2010, trade that brought the left-hander from Pittsburgh to San Francisco marked the seventh time he switched organizations. Lopez played the entire 2003 season with Colorado. Despite that, he spent portions of five of the next six years at Triple-A. Lopez finally established himself as a top lefty bullpen specialist with the Giants, helping them win two of the last three World Series.
"Obviously, there have been many times when I could have walked away," Lopez said. "If anything, it's a story of persistence for me. I do genuinely consider every day being blessed, being here."
If baseball hadn't worked out for Lopez, something would have. A Spanish teacher at Javier's alma mater, James W. Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax County, Va., Sarah made sure that her son applied himself academically.
"I had to be proficient with the books," Lopez said. "I couldn't really do the things that I wanted to do if I wasn't getting my work done. ... That work ethic was something that really was instilled, not only by my mom, but my dad, too. A lot of things have been given to you as gifts, but it's up to you to try to maximize [them] the best you can."
Lopez did. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in psychology, while fulfilling his goal of playing college baseball.
Lopez's parents tried to attend as many of his games as possible when he was in high school and college. But he would have received their encouragement regardless of his interests. Since her husband, Francisco, had a time-consuming job with the FBI, Sarah Lopez often worked overtime as a parent to Javier and his older sisters, Sarah and Rosana. Of course, it was a labor of love.
"I grew up in a loving and supporting home, and I think that was first and foremost with my mom," Lopez said. "Whether it was sports, music or any kind of extracurricular stuff, she really went out of her way to make sure we could do that. So when school ended, she'd be available for rides. It was Mom's taxi with me and my two older sisters. I never heard her complain about having to go this way and that way with not only myself but also my sisters. That was something I'll always remember and I'm always appreciative for."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com.