Just because the 2021 MLB season is all wrapped up, that won’t stop local slugger from giving back off the diamond. Find out more in this feature presented by Edward Medical Group.
“This is my first kinda event coming back to my hometown and i’m really excited about it.”
Kansas City Royals shortstop and Naperville native Nicky Lopez returned home for an appearance at Dean’s Dugout to sign autographs and give away raffle prizes to Naperville residents, and baseball fans. Although this event meant more than just your standard welcome
“I’m giving a platform that’s bigger than me and any time I can give back to the community or to a foundation obviously one that’s dear to my heart because this was a great friend of mine and it’s a no brainer anytime I can do it and to be able to come back in my and do something is very special”
All proceeds went towards the Jweg Strong Foundation, named after 2015 Naperville Central grad Justin Wegner. The former Redhawk football and baseball standout lost his battle to a rare form of cancer in July of 2019. The foundation raises money for cancer research, hospitals and awards for students from Naperville Central and UW-Whitewater.
Nicky, who graduated from Central in 2013, and Justin Wegner became friends through the J. Kyle Braid leadership foundation, a group that promotes leadership, positive and community in young athletes.
“Me and Justin shared a unique bond through the JKB leadership foundation I was actually the one that nominated him we went through the hole nomination and I nominated him when he was a Sophomore so he won and we kinda shared a bond through that and you know Justin he was great guy loved amongst his peers he was an easy guy to root for.” This is huge and it’s different right so it’s unique in its style and it’s a way that Nicky can make a personal association to the to our foundations.”
And he continues to remember Justin on and off the diamond. During the season Nicky represented his fallen friend by wearing cleats an arm bands that signified the foundation. While the Royals infielder continues to do as much as he can to give back, it gives the Wegner family another reason to closely follow the career of the former Redhawk star.
“Nicky reaches out to us all the time I texted him throughout the season to congratulate him on a great season and I actually at one point said I hope you don’t feel like I’m a stalker and he’s like no that’s ok Mr. Wegner you’re good! So I support the relationship that he has been a big part of at the beginning.”
Lopez just finished his most successful of his three seasons in the majors leagues in 2021. After being nominated as Gold Glove Finalist in 2020, his hitting skills at the plate caught up with his fielding after batting .300 with 149 hits, 6 triples and 22 stolen bases this season.
Following his breakout year, Lopez was confident the Naperville community would help create a successful fundraiser. After all the autographs were signed, pictures were taken and raffle tickets handed out, over $1,700 was raised that night.
“This is a no brainer to do something like this because he came from an unbelievable family he was an unbelievable teammate unbelievable classmate and like I said an easy guy to root for so when I was able to get this set up you know I wanted to do it in his honor.”
While Lopez waits to back on the diamond next spring he will continue to remember his friend
and support his community.
Reporting for Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Patrick Codo.
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