Innings with Mervyl Melendez
By Patrick Hyde
Bethune-Cookman skipper Mervyl Melendez has lead
the Wildcats to unprecedented levels of success. His teams have
won the MEAC championship in all but one of his nine seasons.
Melendez took time to sit down with CollegeBaseballInsider.com
to talk about his team’s recent participation in the MLB Urban
Invitational, recruiting African-American players and what he
took away from being a player at the school he now coaches.
First Inning - How did you get involved with
the MLB Urban Invitational?
Mr. Darrell Miller from MLB Urban Youth Academy
called me about a year ago and made a formal invitation to the
event, and we immediately accepted the invitation.
Second Inning – Your team got to play two of
the top teams in the country in USC and UCLA this weekend. What
is like not only going against those teams, but also having the
opportunity to win?
Well, honestly we are used to playing teams of
their caliber in teams such as Florida, Miami, Tennessee,
Florida State, Ole Miss and Tulane the past two years, so
basically for us, it was business as usual with the exception of
being teams from the West Coast.
Third Inning – With the lower number of
African-Americans playing baseball, does it make it more
difficult to recruit players to a historically black college?
It is a challenge trying to find the
African-American players who will come to an HBCU school because
the pool of players is not that large, and the ones who we like,
everyone else is after them as well. This past recruiting cycle
(November), we offered six scholarships to African-American
players, and only one signed with us. So for us, it is
difficult to attract them here rather than them going to a
Fourth Inning - Your team has been the
dominant team in the MEAC over the past decade. What are the
keys to your continued success?
The keys to our success first of all are
recruiting not only talented players, but also good people who
will buy into our philosophy. We have been very fortunate to
identify those types of student-athletes who have helped us
achieve those championships.
Fifth Inning – What team(s) poses the biggest
challenge to another Bethune-Cookman conference championship?
We cannot take any team lightly, we must be
prepared to face anyone and work hard to come out on top. I
have never been one to focus on one team other than mine to
achieve success; I must concentrate in us first and then scout
Sixth Inning – Who are the best players in the
Some of the best players in the MEAC are:
Bethune-Cookman – Jose Lozada, Osvaldo Torres,
Drew Clark, Hiram Burgos, Joseph Gautier, and Eric Thomas
North Carolina A&T – Jeremy Jones & CJ Beatty
Florida A&M – Darryl Evans & Corey McFadden
Delaware State – Justin Bittner
Norfolk State – Moriba George
Seventh Inning – What experiences as a player
at Bethune-Cookman have helped you as a coach there?
I was coached by Brian Rhees, who is now a scout
for the Kansas City Royals, and I learned a lot from him. He
helped me with thinking outside the box and making something out
of nothing. We have a no-excuse mentality here at Bethune-Cookman,
which is basically concentrating on the solution not the
problem. And as a player, I definitely never heard Coach Rhees
make excuses from the lack of facilities or any other issues.
Eighth Inning – Baseball players tend to be
very superstitious. Do you have any superstitions or rituals?
Absolutely, I think that every baseball has one
but there is nothing that serious to comment about.
Ninth Inning – What road stadium is your
favorite to visit?
There are a couple of stadiums that I like
playing in, and those are Stetson and Florida, even though we
don’t win there often.