OMAHA, Neb. - Linda Lopez arrived at the College World Series on Tuesday night toting what she calls "my favorite picture."
It comes with a spectacular story.
Her husband's team was celebrating its 1992 College World Series title when Andy and Linda Lopez's 2-year-old son, Michael, starting crying for his father.
Michael was lowered onto the Rosenblatt Stadium turf while Lopez and his Pepperdine players mobbed each other. The little boy finally found his dad; they hugged just as a camera flashed.
Andy Lopez saw the faded photo again this week and howled.
"I told my wife: 'This little boy is now that guy? That 6-foot-4 monster?'" he said.
The Arizona Wildcats coach's fifth trip to the College World Series - the program's first since 2004 - is extra special for Lopez, in part because he gets to share it with his two sons, who are both walk-on reserves for the Wildcats.
Michael is the "6-foot-4-monster," a senior relief pitcher and aspiring coach. David is one year younger and the Wildcats' backup second baseman.
Though their on-field contributions this year amount to just one appearance on the mound and nine at-bats, their trip to Omaha is significant.
Michael and David both served as UA batboys in 2004. They're now in Omaha sporting good-luck playoff beards and dreams of a national title.
The Wildcats (43-17) play Florida State on Friday.
"I think it'll be different this time," Michael said. "I'm part of the team, so I get to experience the whole thing. It's a pretty sweet deal."
David said: "We're trying to win the whole thing. That's the main thing: trying to do everything we can to win a national championship."
For the Lopez family, Omaha is more a state of mind than a city. Andy Lopez talks about the College World Series "every day," Michael says, even during the offseason. The coach put the CWS dates on the front door of the UA's home clubhouse before this season started; the Wildcats broke every team huddle, every day, with the word "Omaha."
Lopez cares so much about the CWS, his sons say, that he can't stand to watch it on television unless his team is playing. As boys, Michael and David - both diehard baseball fans - followed the series while Andy took his daughters to the mall.
But there's more to Omaha than just competing for championships. For the Lopez family, the CWS - like baseball - is a tradition as old as fathers and sons.
"And to take my sons," Lopez said, "it's special."
Andy Lopez's father, Art, was a World War II veteran and longshoreman with a passion for baseball. He introduced Andy to the College World Series as a boy; together, the two would listen to games on the radio.
"I always wanted to repay him," he said.
So when Andy guided his Pepperdine team to Omaha in 1992, he brought his father along. The Lopezes returned to the World Series in 1996 and 1998.
But as the Wildcats made their run in 2004, the man who sparked the coach's passion for baseball was too sick to travel. Art Lopez died in his son's arms on June 30, 2005. He was 96.
The Lopez family patriarch is "still alive for us," especially this time of year, Linda Lopez said.
"He's a huge part of baseball and the love of baseball that Andy has," she said. "When we were at Pepperdine and Florida, he was the first person that threw the ball with my boys. He's the one who taught them how to bat."
Both Lopez boys take after their parents. Michael, 22, is tall, easygoing and organized, like his mom, and bears a striking resemblance to his maternal grandfather.
David, 20, is the spitting image of his dad - down to his stubborn streak. Neither are allowed to play board games with the family.
"I guess we're both pretty sore losers," David said.
Friday, all three Lopez men will stand together on college baseball's biggest stage representing the UA and a baseball-mad family.
Someone will certainly take a picture.
"When I see that," Linda said, "it's going to blow me away."
On StarNet: Chat with reporter Ryan Finley at noon Friday about the Wildcats' chances in the College World Series and join a live fan chat during the game Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m. Go to live.azstarnet.com for a link to both chats.
• What: College World Series
• Who: Arizona vs. Florida State
• Where: Omaha, Neb.
• When: 6 p.m. Friday
• TV: ESPN2