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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
17 Feb 2024
Tribune News Service

NextImg:Chicago White Sox infielder Nicky Lopez inducted into Naperville Central Athletic Hall of Fame

New Chicago White Sox infielder Nicky Lopez is enjoying the most unforgettable offseason of his life.

That was true even before receiving an honor Friday that he said ranks among the best of his accomplishments.

It’s been an eventful offseason, for sure,” Lopez said. “A day before I got married, I got traded from the Braves to the White Sox.

“That was something I won’t take for granted, just to be able to come back and play for a hometown team, which is something special.”

But getting the call for the Naperville Central Athletic Hall of Fame is equally special for Lopez, 28, who graduated from the school in 2013 after earning five varsity letters in baseball and basketball. He was inducted Friday, joining a Hall of Fame that already included Candace Parker, Anthony Parker, Owen Daniels, Sean Payton and Casey Krueger.

“100 percent it’s up there, only because it means so much not only to me but my family,” Lopez said. “This is where it started.

“This is a steppingstone for the journey that I’m still on. So that’s what I’m most thankful for, that I’m coming back and seeing all the teachers who have helped me become who I am. That’s why it’s a little bit more special.”

Those teachers include Naperville Central basketball coach Pete Kramer and baseball coach Mike Stock, who were proud to be part of the induction ceremony held before the boys basketball game against Neuqua Valley.

“It being Nicky, there was a lot of excitement in the building, and that would have been the case even if he was playing for the Braves,” Stock said. “But the fact he’s with the Sox adds another layer.

“It’s just a blast. It’s one of the rewards that you get from being around people like this all the time. We want to make sure we slow it down and celebrate. He’s a great young man from a great family.”

Also inducted Friday were 2006 graduate Erica Carter, who helped Naperville Central’s girls basketball team win two state titles and scored more than 1,000 points at Binghamton; pioneering female athlete Lois Madsen, a 1975 graduate who became the first person to earn a full volleyball scholarship at Northern Illinois; wrestling star Rodney Landorf, a 1962 graduate who became an Army officer and received a Bronze Star in the Vietnam War; and late wrestling coach Bill Young.

“I haven’t been back to Naperville since a few months after I graduated,” Carter said. “There are so many amazing times that happened throughout high school and my athletic career.

“Walking through the hallways, it brings back a lot of good memories, and I feel honored to be a part of the Hall of Fame. I know there are so many student-athletes that go through the building at Naperville Central, and it’s just been a day full of amazing memories.”

Lopez’s family, including his parents Bob and Angela and brothers Bobby and Anthony, still lives in Naperville. Angela Lopez presented him for induction.

“Obviously, this honor is humbling,” Nicky Lopez said. “You always hear each year of people getting inducted, so to be able to add to the list is awesome.”

After graduating from Naperville Central, Lopez played baseball at Creighton and was picked by the Kansas City Royals in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB draft. When the Royals called him up in 2019, he became the first Naperville Central graduate to play in the major leagues.

Lopez, who has a .249/.312/.319 career slash line, was a Gold Glove finalist at second base in 2020 and became the first Royals shortstop to hit .300 in 2021. He played parts of five seasons in Kansas City before being traded in July to the Braves, whom he helped win the National League East title.

Lopez said he is thrilled to join the White Sox, who acquired him in November.

“I grew up going to White Sox games,” he said. “I went to Game 2 of the World Series in 2005, so just being able to put the jersey on, wow, it’s cool.”

Long known for his humble, hardworking approach to the game, Lopez is quick to share credit for his ascent.

“When you come to high school, obviously you’re there to learn, but you’re there to grow and also learn life lessons, and these teachers every step of the way helped mold me,” he said. “Whether it was my English teacher or math teacher, we’ve all had conversations with them that have helped me get to where I’m at.

“I can’t thank them enough. They’ve done so good by me with all the respect and love that they’ve shown, and I keep in touch with them.”

Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.