(Photo: Brad Glazier)
Delaware Sports Blitz had the pleasure to talk to a couple players on the Wilmington Blue Rocks before the Saturday game on August 24th when they took on the Down East Wood Ducks ( they won 8-4).
The next Rocks player we interviewed was catcher, MJ Melendez.
According to Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star, Melendez was named the sixth-best prospect in the Royals farm system by Baseball America. Worthy also reports that Melendez was ranked third among the Royals top prospects by MLB.com.
Melendez offensive stats with the Blue Rocks this season was a .163 batting average, .311 slugging percentage, 34 runs, 59 hits, 23 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 54 RBIs and 44 walks.
The Rocks catcher fielding stats for the 2019 season were 579 putouts,74 assists, six errors, two double plays, 12 passed balls, 24 stolen bases and 36 caught stealing.
Before he came to Wilmington, Melendez helped guide the Lexington Legends to a championship in 2018.
The Florida native was also named to the all-star team during his time at the Legends.
Melendez talked everything from how he started playing baseball to the greatest advice a coach has given him.
Check it out below!
How did you start playing baseball?
When I was growing up, my dad was a college baseball coach and I grew up going to the games. I always loved it and always loved the games. I started playing tee-ball around the age of three or four.
How did you start playing the particular position you play?
When I was going to my dad’s games, I always kind of heard the pop of the mitt and that was always something that stood out to me. I just knew from the point on, I went home where I would squat and just pretend I was catching. Ever since then, I just fell really in love with it and asked for my first catcher’s gear when I was five years old for Christmas. Ever since then, I wanted to be a catcher.
What is the best part of being a catcher?
Just being involved with everything. Being able to control the game, to call pitches, blocking and being the quarterback of the baseball field.
The pitching has been really dominant here this year. The Rocks have had 14 shutouts ( now 15) and a no-hitter, for the most part the pitching has carried this team. As a catcher, I would think it is the chemistry with the pitcher knowing their strengths and weakness and knowing some of the tendencies of the opposing hitters. How does it gel where the pitching just becomes a machine?
Yeah, Definitely. Me and Sebastian definitely have a really good relationship with our pitchers. The pitchers have gotten in really good rhythms and we know what they like to do in certain situations. The pitchers having trust in us and us having trust in them in that whatever we call they will be able to throw it for a strike or a swing and miss pitch. To be able to locate the pitches where want them to throw it. Just being able to read the hitters in our pre-game work with our pitching coach. Just trying to figure out the game plan for each other.
When a pitcher is struggling, what do you do to help them out?
It depends on the pitcher, like I said we know how each pitcher is and what makes them get going. Some pitchers you have to get on them and some you have to just ease into it where it gives them some confidence. It just depends on who we are working with at the time.
What do you feel is your greatest strength?
The knowledge of the game. I think it helps me when I am in a lot of situations. Especially, when it comes to game calling and how to manage a game. My arm and throwing is a big part of my game as well.
What do you feel you are weakest at and how do you work on to improve it?
That’s a tough question, I am not really too sure. I feel like I try to be the best at everything I do defensively. Being a catcher is the most important position, so there is nothing I know I can lack in and still be successful. I know I have to try to be the best of every single part of my game. I try to be the best in everything.
What is the biggest adjustment you had to make when you entered in the minor leagues?
Just seeing pitchers every day that have good stuff, throw hard, have good velocity and have off-speed pitches. In high school, you get a couple pitchers a year that have really good stuff that can make it to this level. Here, every single day you are catching guys that are really good.
The Royals have Salvador Perez who is one of the best catchers in the MLB. Does that motivate you to work harder to see a guy like that or do you just model your game after yourself?
Definitely, I think just worrying about myself is the biggest thing. I know I only can control what I do and I cannot really control anyone else or what another player does or any decisions made by the organization. I just try to be the best of myself I can be every day, work hard and just try to put myself in the best position I can when I play.
What was the feeling like when you got the call you were being drafted?
It was a really breathtaking experience. I remember that day, I was not really sure which team I was going to get picked by. I found out it was Kansas City which I was extremely excited and knew I was going to a great organization. From the top to bottom, whether it is the players, the development, front office and just the way they run things here are very classy.
Describe some of the highlights of your athletic career.
Last year was pretty special when I was able to win a championship( won it with the Lexington Legends). That was something that I hoped to do, I didn’t get a chance to win a state championship in high school. Being able to win one on a pretty high level was very important to me and was extremely exciting.
How do you stay motivated during the highs and lows of a season?
It is a game and it is something that I always dreamed of doing, so for me just wanting to be the best each of every day. I am a competitor, I want to be the best in every single thing I do. Obviously, baseball is on the top of that list.
How has your experience been in the state of Delaware?
It is has been pretty unique. It has been a grind of a season but I have had a great time with my teammates. Just going out there and winning with my teammates a lot, that is what we are here to do. Hopefully, we can continue to do that in the playoffs and bring back another ring.
What has a former or current coach taught you, that you still use today on or off the playing field?
The best advice I would say I have been given is ” Don’t let the highs get too high and the lows get too low. Baseball is a game and that has a lot of failure in it and when you succeed 30% of the time at the plate, you are doing a really great job. It is the only sport you can succeed 30% and still be considered great.” Just trying mentality every day to be on the top of my game.
What is a typical day for you when the season is in full force?
Just waking up, get some breakfast and then lunch. At home, just chilling where I watch TV on my laptop, read or talk to my family. Once I get to the ballpark, I go work out and then get some early work in the cages with hitting, catching or both. Then, we have our BP and just prepare for the game.
How do you want to be remembered by your coaches or teammates?
One as a leader and two as a guy everyone can talk to. Someone who they come to for advice. I like to be the energy of the clubhouse. Just trying to be outgoing with everyone and just fun.