Lopez has 'unbelievable' charity experience

October 3rd, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- has had an excellent season on the field, settling in as the Royals’ everyday shortstop and No. 2 hitter, but just as important has been his work off the field.

Last week, Lopez held a Zoom call with kids from the Challenger program at the YMCA Kansas City. It was part of Lopez’s program called Nicky’s #1’s, an initiative he launched last year to partner with the Royals community and engage with kids in the Kansas City area.

He was hoping to host the program at Kauffman Stadium, but with Covid-19 protocols in place, he opted for a Zoom call instead, with each kid getting to ask a question about baseball or Lopez’s life.

“Those kids make my day,” Lopez said. “To see them smile and have them interact with me, ask any questions they want. And then seeing the outpour of effect that I had on them, whether it’s through tweets or Instagram or messages they send me about how much it meant to them. It goes a long way.

"I’m not doing it for the tweets or anything, I’m doing it for the kids. They enjoy it, just seeing their smiles. And seeing how happy they are is unbelievable.”

For 30 minutes during the Royals’ off-day in Detroit before their final road series of the season, Lopez fielded questions from 10 kids about pretty much everything: His pregame routine, what he likes most about baseball and even one about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017.

“They always have one or two that surprise me,” Lopez said. “But they were all great questions.”

Most players find an avenue to give back to the community when they get to the big leagues. It’s typically the next step in a players’ career -- once they’re settled into the Majors, they can begin to find a charity they’re passionate about.

Lopez knew he wanted to find a way to give back a few months into his rookie season in 2019. Nicky’s #1’s does just that, and he’s hoping to expand the program next season and welcome groups to The K once it’s safe to do so.

“A couple months in, I went to my agent and said, ‘Hey I want to start something,’” Lopez said. “You’re given this platform and a lot of people look up to you. I want to use it. Just to make kids happy and be a positive role model in the community. If that’s what it takes and that’s what I have to do to do it, I would do anything. That’s why I started this.”

Some things to work on
When Mike Matheny saw Cam Gallagher slide -- or something like that -- into third base in the sixth inning Saturday night, it settled the Royals manager’s goal to work on sliding for next year. Gallagher seemed to do a hybrid of a head-first and foot-first slide, which was about as graceful as it sounds.

Gallagher was safe. And he was unharmed in the process. And he made the whole Royals dugout laugh, even getting a grin from his manager the next morning.

“I believe we might be the worst sliding team in organized baseball,” Matheny said. “That might go down very far levels. I don’t know how that happened. Rusty’s going to take supreme offense to that, and that’s a hard thing to work on, but we’re going to be better. We’re going to be a better sliding team. That was kind of the cherry on top yesterday, when we watched a crash landing on top of third base, to realize we needed a new game plan.”

Matheny also gave a review of Mike Swanson’s ceremonial first pitch on Saturday, which the Royals’ vice president of communications and broadcasting threw for his retirement ceremony. Swanson is beloved by the organization and by the Royals' players, so when the pitch went in the dirt, he received the necessary jabs from the dugout.

“Man, it was almost so good,” Matheny said jokingly. “We’ve had a problem -- here’s the deal. We’ve had a problem with first-pitch strikes. Once again, we got a long list of stuff to work on. Add that to it.

“What a great ceremony though. This organization does a phenomenal job, rightfully so. I’ll say it again, Swanee: Thank you. Just very grateful for you putting up with me and helping to make this go.”