No image is as closely related to baseball as that of a father and son playing catch.
MJ Melendez, entering his sophomore year with the Kansas City Royals, has experienced that scene nearly every day this offseason. He trained with his father, Mervyl, a 26-year veteran of college coaching.
“I don’t think I would be here in the same place I am today without him,” said the young Melendez. “It was everything for me, the sacrifices he and my mom made for me growing up, traveling to all my tournaments. … he helped me and shaped me into the player I am today.”
Mervyl most recently skippered Florida International University, leading the Panthers 2017-22. These days, he’s happy to bat practice, run defensive drills, and hit fly balls with a mushroom bat for MJ at his school in Florida. alma mater preparation, Westminster Christian School in Miami, Florida.
“I just want to be there, to be of help,” Mervyl said. “Look at the things he can improve on, whether it’s hitting, his concentration levels when he’s doing strength and conditioning, whatever that is. I just want to be supportive, be there for him during his training sessions, so that is ready to embark on a new season every year”.
Mervyl said his wife, Aixa, plays a huge role in helping MJ with his finances. She stressed how special it is to give her son the tools to succeed at the highest level.
“[It’s] very special,” Mervyl said. You have a 24-year-old who actually has a great relationship with his parents, who trusts us, who believes we’re a team. Just my wife and I, we want to be part of the team.”
Melendez’s routine this winter consisted of a whole-wheat waffle for breakfast; training with his coach since high school, John McCoy; hitting batting practice and alternating daily between catching and fieldwork. He focused on explosiveness, agility and fly ball routes.
Mixed into those everyday disciplines was a good old game of catch, something the Melendez father-son duo will cherish for a long time.
“Until my retirement,” MJ said.
“Forever,” Mervyl said. “I’m fine. … I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where my arm hangs down and I can’t throw.”