By J. Fred Sidhu
Indian Wells, Calif. San Diego’s Angel Lopez and Alberto Bazan of El Centro were among five individuals who were honored on March 14 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden during AeroMexico Day at the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament.
AeroMexico and the tournament recognized Lopez and Bazan and other Southern Californians for their work in helping Hispanic youth athletics in their respective communities.
In a special presentation on Stadium Court, Rolf Hoehn, Vice President of the U.S. Division of AeroMexico presented each honoree with a plaque and two roundtrip tickets to anywhere AeroMexico flies in Mexico.
“It’s an honor and a privilege. I will never forget this day,” said Bazan, who serves as a coordinator for the Imperial Valley Tennis Association.
Since 1987, he has offered children in the Imperial Valley free tennis lessons twice a week as an unpaid volunteer.
Bazan, who has worked as an employee in the maintenance department at Imperial Valley Junior College for the past 28 years, said, “I never expected anything in return and I never looked for any kind of recognition.”
The El Centro resident was in awe of the main stadium at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden as he watched American tennis star Andy Roddick in action from the press box prior to receiving his award.
“In the (Imperial) Valley, we don’t have the opportunity to watch tennis like this,” he added.
Angel Lopez grew up in Logan Heights and the South Bay. He was 17-years-old when he first picked up a racquet.
Today he is one of the top teaching tennis professionals in the United States and serves as the Director of Tennis at the San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club in Bay Park.
Lopez has coached many tennis professionals including Zina Garrison, Michael Chang, Alexandra Stevenson, Angelica Gavaldon and Alejandro Hernandez.
He not only provides scholarships to Hispanic youths, but youths of every race through his Angel Lopez Tennis Academy. The San Diego County resident also sponsors after school tennis programs and several junior tennis tournaments.
“I try to be a good mentor and role model,” Lopez said. “I tell the kids it can be done and this is the land of opportunity.”
The other honorees on AeroMexico Day at the Pacific Life Open were Luis Pinedo (Riverside County), Sergio Cardenas (Orange County) and Sal Franco (San Bernardino County).