Omar Lopez ready to lead Team Venezuela
Astros first base coach Omar Lopez introduced as Venezuela's 2023 WBC manager
The tears showed how much the role as Venezuela’s manager meant to Omar Lopez. The Astros’ first base coach had known for almost a week that he had been picked to lead his country in the World Baseball Classic.
Yet, he was still overcome with emotion Wednesday morning when he was introduced to the Venezuela media through a Zoom call.
Lopez, who developed as a manager at every level of the Astros’ farm system, declared the WBC managerial post a dream come true.
“For me, for Omar Lopez, this is the most relevant, most important role as a manager,” he said in his native Spanish.
Winning track record
Team Venezuela general manager Luis Blasini highlighted Lopez’s experience in the Astros’ farm system. He also noted Lopez’s tenure on the Astros’ big league staff since 2020. Lopez was hired for the major league coaching staff by AJ Hinch ahead of the 2020 season.
He served as Dusty Baker’s first base coach and then as an interim third base coach in 2021.
Blasini raved about Lopez’s success managing Caribes of the Venezuelan winter league. He was the youngest manager when he was declared that Venezuelan winter league’s Manager of the Year at 38 years after leading Caribes to the 2014-2015 title.
In the last Venezuelan championships (Lopez managed) he’s had the best record in the postseason,” Blasini said. “He won two titles. … Omar Lopez also has other characteristics that are very good.
“He’s a leader and has great communication skills with his teams. The team chemistry has been very good, and those are important traits.”’
Lopez was hired by the Astros on Dec. 1, 1998, to work in their Venezuelan Academy. He served as an infield and hitting instructor at the academy. He was also one of the scouts who recommended future American League MVP Jose Altuve.
The Astros brought the Valencia, Venezuela, native to work in the United States in 2008. With current Tampa Bay Rays third base coach and 2023 Dominican Republic manager Rodney Linares as his mentor, Lopez blossomed managing in the Astros’ system from 2008 to 2012.
Star power developer
He had Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr. at Class A Quad Cities when the Bandits won the Midwest League title.
“It was a huge team with first round picks, so (Linares) was on me,” Lopez said in October. “That’s why I’m very thankful to God for putting Rodney in my career. He’s my brother.”
Lopez managed 2022 All-Stars Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez at Class A Buies Creek in 2017. He was promoted to Class AA Corpus Christi the next season, winning the 2018 Texas League Manager of the Year Award.
Lopez served as a quality control coach for Venezuela in the 2016 World Baseball Classic. Now, he’ll be in charge of the entire team for the 2023 tournament.
“It’s an important challenge,” Lopez said. “But I’ve always felt that I’m a person who’s not afraid of anything. If I have the capabilities to do something, I’m going to try.”
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