for CBI SWAC preview
Nine Innings with Mervyl
By Phil Stanton
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.
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 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
Fifth Inning – Did you compete against Coach
Watkins in the past?
We never played ASU while I was a coach at
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
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