Feb. 20, 2012

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Nine Innings with Mervyl Melendez

By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

Phil@collegebaseballinsider.com @RoadToOmaha


One of the boldest moves of this past offseason was head coach Mervyl Melendez leaving the tremendously successful program at Bethune-Cookman to attempt to resurrect the program at Alabama State. Melendez led the Wildcats to 11 MEAC titles and 11 NCAA Tournament appearances in 12 seasons at B-CU. In 2011, the Wildcats were 18-0 in the MEAC for the second straight year, stretching their conference win streak to 43 and earning their sixth straight NCAA regional bid.


The Hornets were 14-29 a season ago under Larry Watkins, an ASU alum who guided the program for 30 years. The new Wheeler-Watkins Baseball Complex honors two former ASU baseball coaches. The late Herbert Wheeler earned both an undergraduate (1937) and graduate (1967) degree from ASU. He became head coach during the 1960s and led the program until 1981. Wheeler coached the only Hornet squad to play in the NCAA Tournament in 1974. Watkins played for and coached with Wheeler. Watkins became head coach in 1982.


Before the start of the season, Melendez took time to answer our questions.


First Inning – What has been the biggest transition for you in your short time at Alabama State?

The biggest transition has been moving my family to Montgomery, Ala. The baseball language is still the same as well as the preparation part.

Second Inning – Looking back at your time at Bethune-Cookman, which accomplishments make you most proud?

There are a lot of accomplishments that come to mind but winning 11 MEAC Championships and being undefeated the last two years in conference play is pretty special.

Third Inning – How significant is the addition of the Wheeler-Watkins Baseball Complex to the Alabama State program?

Our University has made a commitment to make baseball significant on campus and building a facility is only the first phase of the building a successful program. Our job is to make ASU a household name in college baseball.

Fourth Inning – What have you learned about Coach Wheeler?

Coach Wheeler dedicated a long time to the baseball program here at ASU, his contributions along with Coach Watkins are the reason why ASU Baseball has an on-campus stadium now.

Fifth Inning – Did you compete against Coach Watkins in the past?

We never played ASU while I was a coach at Bethune-Cookman.

Sixth Inning – Have you competed against other SWAC teams in the past and how familiar are you with the coaches in the league?

Over the last four years we have played several SWAC teams such as Southern University, Alabama A&M, Alcorn State, and Grambling State. Of course Coach Cador is a legend and I have the utmost respect and admiration for him and his program. He is the main reason why HBCU Baseball is relevant nowadays. We played Grambling State last year and Coach Cooper did an amazing job coaching against us and so did Coach Barret Rey at Alcorn State.

Seventh Inning – What have been the biggest challenges with 20 newcomers, of which 19 are freshmen, on your 27-man squad?

We actually have 20 freshmen on the team this year. Our players have all bought into our system and are getting better each day. This group will be fun to coach not only this year but for the next four years. The challenge at the very beginning was for the players to buy into our system and fortunately they have all accomplished it.

Eighth Inning – You open the season at the MLB Urban Invitational in Houston. What are your thoughts on the MLB Urban Youth Academy program?

This will be the fifth year in a row that we will coach a team in the MLB Urban Invitational and we are extremely proud and honored to be a participant in this event. Major League Baseball does an amazing job hosting this event and we are looking forward to participating in this year's events.

Ninth Inning – What should we expect from the Hornets in 2012?

Although our team is very young, our players have worked very hard to overcome the lack of experience that we will be facing with this coming season.


(photos courtesy of Alabama State Media Relations Office)