“They’re both throwing with great hand speed, and there’s no ‘I’m going to try to do it,'” Stottlemire said. “They have kept power at the forefront so they maximize their movement and their finish on the pitch. They are special.”
Fields, yes, but also people. When Stottlemire’s father Mel Sr., a longtime pitcher and coach, died of multiple myeloma in January 2019, Alcantara and Lopez called him for comfort. Stottlemire, who most recently joined the Marlins, has since helped both pitchers through their personal trials.
“To share what it’s like, to be able to inspire and give purpose and meaning to everything you do – the three of us spent a lot of time talking about it,” said Stottlemire, who is 58. “It hurts me, too, watching them, because I only know how I got through my father’s death. And be young? I had to live with my father almost all my life and experience all the wonderful times. It was taken from them.”
Stottlemire recognizes his father’s influence from the way he talks to his pitchers. He invests time in building relationships, earning their affection – pitchers wear t-shirts calling themselves “Baby Stott– and trust. He talked about his younger brother Jason, who died of leukemia in 1981, and said he was never as close to the two pitchers as he was to Alcantara and Lopez.
“I see him as not only a pitching coach,” Lopez said, “but also a father figure and a role model.”
Lopez’s father encouraged him to pursue a professional career with the Seattle Mariners when he was 16, when he had another ill-advised option: medical school at La Universidad del Zulia, his parents’ alma mater. Lopez graduated from high school at age 15, learning four languages along the way, and family members on his mother’s side warned that the baseball world could be very uncertain. Danny reasoned that medical school could always be a back-up plan for baseball, but not the other way around. That logic won out, even though Lopez struggled at times with the burden of high achievement.