Going to college is a challenge in itself. Throw in a different state, a higher elevation and competition level and it could be too much for most players.
Former Taft High baseball player Caleb Lopez has adapted to those hurdles as he continues to compete in his freshman year for the Colorado School of Mines baseball team.
"He's worked hard to get better on things," said CSM head coach Jerod Goodale. "He's shown some flashes of doing good things."
"It's been really great moving out and starting life on my own," said Lopez. "I am really enjoying my time here."
Heading out of high school, Lopez applied to places like Cal Poly and several junior colleges in Los Angeles.
However, Lopez was interested in petroleum engineering and looked up the best schools in the country for that. He found Colorado School of Mines and after talking to the coach he decided to go there.
"I liked the baseball coach so I went that direction," said Lopez. "Once I was accepted it was pretty easy for me."
With the change, Lopez had to get used to a higher altitude. According to www.cityofgolden.net, the city where the university is, the altitude is 5,675 feet above sea level.
"When I first got here I felt like I was out of shape," he said. "I quickly got used to it."
Another change was the weather. According to weather.com, the average high temperature for March is 56 degrees while the low is 27. In February, the average high is 49 degrees while the average low is 20 degrees.
"That has been one of the hardest things we have to get used to," said Lopez. "It's a different element but I am still enjoying it."
Lopez says that the team doesn't have too many opportunities to get onto the field.
Along with the weather and the elevation, Lopez is facing a higher level of competition than he was used to in high school.
"The level of competition is far greater," he said. "It's almost like a job. It's tough but it's very rewarding."
A little over a quarter of the season has passed for the Colorado School Mines team and so far Lopez has been the designated hitter.
"His ability to hit the fastball is really good," said Goodale.
According to Goodale, Lopez has not played in the field so far this season.
This was a switch from last year when Lopez led the Wildcat team in batting with a .455 average and runs batted in with 23, was second on the team in runs scored with 28 and third in hits with 30.
Page 2 of 2 - So far this season, Lopez has a .083 batting average with one run scored and a hit in five games.
"It's definitely tough to handle but its put me in a good place," he said. "It's really great for me to go through this."
Despite the change, Lopez says he is learning.
"I am learning a variety of new things," he said. "I still learn every day."
The adjustments are not limited to the baseball diamond. Yet like his team on the field he has help.
"It's extremely tough academically," he said. "All of the students work together. It's like a big team."
Lopez says the main focus at Colorado School of Mines is a street class schedule "designed to make us look good to companies."
Lopez says it helps.
"Knowing all of the job opportunities in the future, it makes it that much easier," he said. "It puts you in an easier place mentally."
In his first semester alone, Lopez was taking 19 units while he is taking 17 ½ units this semester.
"It's definitely a pretty solid work load," he said.
In regards to baseball, Lopez says education comes first but the door is not closed about playing at a higher level.
"It's definitely a possibility," he said.