“This is it. I’m all done,” the 28-year-old said Tuesday.
Kopitzke concluded his career as a catcher in the Cubs’ farm system earlier this week when Triple-A Iowa ended their season with a 4-3 win over Omaha on Monday. He started the game and went 1-for-4.
Seldom known for his hitting and primarily for his strong defense, Kopitzke batted .239 with Iowa this season. He committed no errors and only two passed balls, throwing out 39 percent of opposing runners in 22 games.
Entering the team’s final month, Kopitzke already had his mind made up with regards to his future as a player. He informed coaches and teammates with the I-Cubs weeks in advance of his decision.
“Every year, I sit down with my wife and decide where life is taking us and the path that baseball has taken us,” Kopitzke said. “This is something that didn’t just come up. The events that played out before me helped push me toward that (decision).”
Those events centered primarily on a lack of playing time. Kopitzke was already serving as a backup to Geovany Soto when the Cubs brought up Jose Reyes from Double-A in June.
“They made me aware that Jose was coming up and that my playing time would be greatly reduced,” Kopitzke said. “It’s the writing on the wall when you’re the third guy. I was OK with that. I had a chance to stick around and help the team out. I actually got into more games than I thought I would.”
Kopitzke was a mid- to late-round draft pick by the Cubs in 1999. His bat never quite came around as much as the organization had hoped, but he ranked near the top of his league in defense most every year.
“My wife and I had talked about the end possibly being in sight and the different options that might be available for me,” Kopitzke said.
Among those options may be a future in coaching. Kopitzke spent a good portion of 2006 aiding the Iowa staff and has previously stated that he’s open to staying in baseball in a coaching capacity.
“We’d asked him to take on a little coaching responsibility, especially with two young catchers,” Iowa manager Mike Quade said. “He was really active and did a nice job with that. He’s the kind of guy that could stay in the game because of who he is and the kind of knowledge he has.
“He may be given an opportunity somewhere to stay in the game, and a lot of that has to do with character.”
During the I-Cubs’ final home series last month, Kopitzke was named the team’s “Man of the Year,” an award that recognizes outstanding contributions to the community and to charity.
Quade couldn’t think of anyone better deserving.
“More times than not when those awards come up every year, it’s not an accident as to who gets them,” the skipper said. “Somewhere on down the road when you’re done with this game, as we all will be eventually, they’ll never be able to take that away from you as far as who you are and what you’re all about as a person.”
Drafted out of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Kopitzke majored in Criminal Justice. He is interested in returning to college to pursue a Master’s Degree in Sports Leadership at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
“It might help me stay in the sports world a little longer,” he said. “We’re definitely going to wait and see what becomes available. You never know what might happen.”
Kopitzke’s teammates will miss him.
“He’s a guy that everyone respects,” Iowa starter Randy Wells said. “It’s sad. Baseball is going to miss guys like him. Guys like that work their tail off in the bullpen to get pitchers ready, knowing they probably won’t be in the lineup every day. It kind of puts into perspective how this game is.”