‘I Was Meant to Be a Golden Eagle’ – How Clarion Became Home to Joe Lopez

Sports have been a part of Joe Lopez’s life from a very young age.

Owen Krepps

Owen Krepps

Published March 23, 2024 12:45 am
Last Updated: March 24, 2024 7:06 pm
‘I Was Meant to Be a Golden Eagle’ – How Clarion Became Home to Joe Lopez

CLARION Pa. (EYT) – The perfect job isn’t always waiting for you the moment you graduate. Sometimes patience and persistence are needed.

As the Associate Athletic Director at his alma mater Clarion University and the head softball coach for Clarion/Clarion-Limestone High School softball, Lopez remembers a time when he was working a graveyard shift at Walmart.

“I was kind of grinding it out,” Lopez told exploreClarion.com. “I was working at Walmart from 4:00 am to 1:00 pm after just graduating. I took a job just so I could keep coaching at Clarion (University baseball), and I did that for a couple of months before I got a call saying there was an emergency opening for the Athletic Events Coordinator Position. They asked if I was interested, which I was 1,000%.”

For Lopez, sports have been a part of his life from a very young age–with baseball being one of his favorites.

“Oh man, I have been playing baseball since I was three years old. I love it,” Lopez said. “It’s a sport where you rely on each other. The teamwork piece as a team I love. I think it has always been an escape from the challenges and realities of the world. It is a place where I find peace.”

Growing up in Beaver Falls, Lopez played high school baseball and basketball at Blackhawk High School. He played on some impressive teams, such as the 2012 team that won the 3A WPIAL Championship during Lopez’s senior year with future MLB player Brendan McKay on it.

Lopez pitched and played shortstop and his success at the high school level led to him joining Clarion University where he played Division II baseball from 2013 to 2017. With the Golden Eagles, Lopez played in 152 games, while he pursued a degree in business administration.

From the moment he stepped on campus to tour Clarion, Lopez knew he was in the right place.

“Clarion has always felt like home to me even when I came to this area as a freshman,” Lopez explained. “What I found is that I gravitate towards the people in this area, specifically the faculty, the athletic department, and the staff. It is just such a good group of people who work closely together and care for each other.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Lopez remained in the area as a graduate assistant coach with Clarion baseball in 2018. When his playing and education days ended,  he started working at “Wally World” amidst an identity crisis.

“I spent my whole life playing baseball so in some ways it felt like I was in an identity crisis,” Lopez said. “I think that I just felt like I wanted to continue to help that program take steps in the right direction because the program had given me so much.”

However, a sudden vacancy had opened at the University, and before you could say “Golden Eagles,” Lopez was working as the Events and Facilities Coordinator. After five years, Lopez was promoted to Associate Athletic Director in the summer of 2023.

“I was lucky enough to learn and grow in that position,” Lopez said. “Then, it was such a blessing this summer to be named Associate AD. It is a dream come true.”

“I love this area,” Lopez added. “My wife and I just had our first child, who is now five months old. It is just so special to call Clarion University, Clarion Athletics, and Clarion in general…home.”

A new position at the University and a new family member aren’t the only new things in Lopez’s life as the baseball enthusiast is now back coaching, albeit softball this time.

Lopez is entering his second year of coaching high school softball. However, this year things will be much different. Lopez coached Clarion Area High School in 2023, but because of a new co-op agreement, he will now be the head coach of Clarion/Clarion-Limestone High School softball.

“I got a call from Dr. Carrico (Superintendent of Clarion Area High School) before last year’s softball season, and he asked if I was interested in coaching softball. I tried it and they hired me as the coach last year. Then, I was offered the opportunity to continue this year with the co-op.”

Things are kicking into gear for softball season as the team just started traditional practices at Clarion-Limestone High School. C-L will be the host school in the co-op.

Lopez is already impressed with the dedication and efficiency of his new combined team.

“I’m super excited. The girls are really great,” Lopez emphasized. “I’m super impressed with how they have handled the co-op because honestly, it is a challenging situation. It can be scary to build relationships. But they have been great.”

Incidentally, Lopez mentioned how satisfied he was with the team’s ability to set up equipment in such a short time. During the team’s first day of official practices, the team set up in just 15 minutes.

“They totally crushed it and they impressed me,” Lopez said. “I went from thinking that we were going to have to set everything up while we were stretching, to saying ‘Wonderful job, you guys just saved us time and now we are going to have a more efficient practice because of it.’”

Lopez is entering a new and busy chapter in his life…and, it all started at Clarion.

“Looking back, I don’t think I would change a thing,” Lopez said. “I think I was meant to be a Golden Eagle.”

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