June 17, 2011


Melendez departs B-CU for Alabama State

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder




For years, Bethune-Cookman coach Mervyl Melendez hoped to see his squad get the opportunity to be shipped away from Gainesville, Miami or Tallahassee for the NCAA Regionals.


The next time Melendez reaches the NCAA tourney, he finally might get his wish.


Melendez will be introduced Tuesday as the new coach at Alabama State in a move that raised more than a few eyebrows across the college baseball landscape.


“I expected that,” Melendez said Friday night. “The bottom line is that Alabama State is trying to head in a new direction.”


The Hornets made a bold step in hiring Melendez, a former player at Bethune-Cookman who guided the Wildcats to 11 NCAA tourney appearances in 12 seasons as head coach.


This season, the Wildcats completed their second straight 18-0 record in the MEAC, extending their conference win streak to 43 games and picking up their sixth straight NCAA bid. In their first game, the Wildcats were tied with Florida State in the eighth inning before falling 6-5, the latest in a string of near-misses in the tourney.


Alabama State, a member of the SWAC, went 14-29 under Larry Watkins, an ASU alum who led the Hornets for 30 years.


“I wouldn’t take this job if I didn’t believe in Alabama State and the administration,” Melendez said.


Melendez cited several reasons for his decision, including the fact that Bethune-Cookman doesn’t have its own facility and is limited to a confined time slot. The Wildcats play at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, the home of the Daytona Cubs. Alabama State opened a new stadium and plans to do much more with the facility. He also said he liked the vision of ASU, which is building a $50 million, 30,000-seat on-campus football stadium and has visions of playing in a larger conference.


And then there’s the challenge.


“The history baseball-wise is not rich,” said Melendez, who is bringing his whole staff with him to Montgomery. “We understand that we have a lot of work ahead of us. But I’m willing to work hard.


“Although Alabama State won 14 games last year, we know the commitment that they’re putting into baseball and athletics will make it a successful program down the line.”


He added that most people don’t remember that Bethune-Cookman didn’t have much of a baseball history until a few years before he arrived.


“I love when people say that’s a stupid move,” Melendez said. “I do like the challenge. No question, I do like the challenge when people say you can’t do it.”


(photo courtesy of B-CU Media Relations Office)