March 6, 2008


Nine 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 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 bigger university.


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 the opponent.


Sixth Inning – Who are the best players in the MEAC?

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.