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Mendonca supported by fans, no matter the uniform

Mendonca supported by fans, no matter the uniform

In his return to John Thurman Field, Turlock High and Fresno State grad Tommy Mendonca had a hometown welcome.


POSTED April 21, 2010 12:04 a.m.
Don’t mess with Tommy Mendonca, especially when he’s in front of familiar faces. The challenger will get a tongue-lashing like no other.
This was the scenario Monday night, when he made his return to John Thurman Field in an opposing uniform but still had a hero’s welcome. He’s the third baseman for the Bakersfield Blaze — of the Texas Rangers organization — and his team was going up against the Modesto Nuts. It didn’t matter what colors Mendonca wore. He still had support.
“It’s great,” Mendonca said. “There’s probably more fans for our team than the Nuts sometimes, which is good. It gives us a home crowd when you’re away. It’s good to know. It makes you feel at home.”
Ironically, his real home isn’t too far away, since he has already purchased a house in Turlock. But it’s always nice to get that kind of welcome, he said.
Even if he had an unspectacular night, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the first and ninth innings and a groundout in the seventh, not to mention a bruised back after getting hit by a pitch in the fourth. But don’t feel too sorry for him. He’s a professional baseball player who’s well aware of the dangers of the job. He also had the support from a good chunk of the crowd of 1,768 who watched the Nuts win 5-1.
Fans didn’t waste anytime throwing support toward Mendonca’s way after he was nailed in the back by a pitch.
“You didn’t want to see him hit a home run, did you?” a supporter shouted to the culprit, Nuts pitcher Ethan Hollingsworth.
“Come on, you don’t do that to the hometown kid,” another pleaded.
Obviously, the fans know Mendonca’s story: He played for the Turlock High baseball team before going to Fresno State, where he became a legend as he led the Bulldogs to the College World Series title two years ago. That might explain the reaction he got Monday.
Every Mendonca at-bat had a flattering soundtrack, with fans cheering him on and wanting him to knock one over the Thurman Field fence. One of his foul balls was a hot commodity, as fans battled to take it home. One lucky person did. Even after a bad game, Mendonca showed his appreciation by signing autographs not too far from where he does most of his work at third base. He also had time to talk to his fans and supporters, as well as have a back-and-forth conversation with Vince Wheeland with both sharing a common thread ... in a Turlock Bulldog uniform, as Wheeland is in his senior year as the team’s ace.
But he’s not leaving just yet.
Mendonca still has one more game at 3:30 p.m. today at Thurman Field before he continues chasing his big league dreams. He’s also contracted to come back 13 more times after today and the appearances will prompt many familiar faces returning to Thurman Field.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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