LANSING, Mich. via TORONTO, Ont. - When Otto Lopez first started playing baseball, he didn't actually use a ball, but rather a cup of water that would be thrown around on the streets of his hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He nonetheless had a blast.
Brought to Montreal, Qubebec, Canada by his father's new job, Lopez joined a local team. It was the first time that the young Lopez played with an organized baseball team. He played almost every position on the diamond.
Lopez was thrilled to be in the country. Though he acknowledges that Montreal was very different that Santo Domingo, he enjoyed the change of scenery as a kid.
"We'd never seen snow before," he remembered. "I like the snow because we can do a lot of activities like skiing and making snowmen."
Spending the latter half of his childhood in the Tétreaultville neighbourhood of Montreal, Lopez experimented with hockey, basketball, and even badminton. He still loves to skate and enjoys trying out any sport he can learn.
Four years later, Lopez moved back to the Dominican Republic to have a better chance of being signed as a young player and develop his skills in a more refined environment. His uncle, Urbano, was instrumental in his decision to move back home just four years after arriving in Canada.
Having returned home to train at a small baseball academy, Lopez worked hard to hone his craft and improve as a player. Thanks to a strong work ethic and long hours on the field, Lopez was able to ink a contract with the Blue Jays in July 2016.
"I was so nervous," he said of the day he signed with Toronto. "I was so happy because Canada was where I grew up. After that, I realized that Montreal and Toronto are really close!"
Lopez, 17 years old at the time of signing his first contract, was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays after a brief stint in the Dominican Summer League. Though nervous, he played exceptionally well, slashing .275/.361/.360 in 51 games, adding six doubles and three triples to go along with 30 runs scored.
Having played just five games at Advanced Rookie Bluefield at the beginning of the 2018 season, Lopez was quickly moved up to Short Season-A Vancouver, where he raised his stock even more.
"I didn't think I could get there so fast," he recalled. "I remember they told me, 'maybe you'll go for a few days, a week,' but I said, 'if I'm gonna go there, I'm not gonna come back!' "
Lopez stayed true to his word, posting an .825 OPS and spending the entirety of the season with the Canadians, earning himself a Northwest League Post-Season All-Star nod, which he said "made him proud of all of his work."
Even after a wildly successful sophomore season, Lopez didn't sit on his hands this offseason, working primarily on his approach at the plate, something that he'd never given much thought to before playing professional baseball.
Despite not being totally comfortable playing in Michigan's varied climate (former Lugnuts outfielder Mc Gregory Contreras was the first to help him get used to it), he has excelled with Lansing this season, hitting the ball to all fields and leading the team in hits, at-bats and total bases.
Though not routinely ranked as one of the organization's top prospects, Otto Lopez, youthful, enthusiastic and hard-working, is surely one of the most interesting names the Midwest League has to offer.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.