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Mendonca working his way up to the big leagues

Mendonca working his way up to the big leagues

Tom Mendonca became a high-profile baseball player at Fresno State during the 2008 season. Now, he's projected to be a high selection during Tuesday's MLB Draft.


POSTED June 27, 2009 3:39 p.m.
There’s no way anyone could have predicated that Tom Mendonca was going to be this good of a baseball player.
Take this from Rob Mendonca, his uncle and former baseball coach at Turlock High. He remembers when his nephew was an unknown talent outside the city limits, and only one school made a college scholarship offer.
Tom Mendonca is only three days away from becoming a professional ballplayer, as the Fresno State junior third baseman is projected to be an early round selection in Tuesday’s MLB Draft. Many believe he became a high profile player after the exposure he received during the Bulldogs’ miracle run to the College World Series and the work he put in during the ensuing offseason to become Fresno State’s home run king, an All-American and one of the best defensemen at his position.
If it wasn’t for appearing on national TV, “I can almost guarantee he wouldn’t be as high of a draft pick,” said Rob Mendonca, who played with the Philadelphia Phillies organization before he went into coaching.
So now, Tom Mendonca is doing whatever he can to make his professional baseball dream come true. He’s been spending a lot of time working out in front of pro scouts.
And the response has been positive.
“Mendonca fits the profile as an athletic, left-handed power hitting third baseman,” reads a scouting report on MLB.com. “He takes advantage of a friendly home park, but the power should translate OK. Couple that with good defense at the hot corner and you’re looking at one of the more interesting college infield prospects in the class. Only his tendency to strike out will hurt his status some, but he still should go well.”
Oh yeah, there’s that thing about him striking out way too much. Before he and the Bulldogs went on to produce one of the greatest underdog stories of all time, Mendonca entered the 2008 postseason leading the country with 97 strikeouts. Not only did he finish his sophomore season with a national trophy, but also as the CWS Most Outstanding Player.
And during last summer, he worked on his swing. He got elite coaching tips during his European trip with Team USA, as well as one-on-one time with his college coach, Mike Batesole, on things such as widening his stance and expanding his strike zone. All that helped Mendonca become one of the best hitters in the Western Athletic Conference and the Fresno State all-time leader in home runs with 57.
Mendonca hoped his Bulldogs could pull off another miracle run this season, but the magic ended in the NCAA Regionals at UC Irvine last weekend. They were finished after two games, and many believed his days as a college player were over.
Since then, his days have been spent flying across the country to work out for various teams. This weekend, he’s headed to Milwaukee, his last stop. He’s eager to finish the process so he can go back to Turlock.
His family has been “supportive through the process,” Mendonca said while waiting for his next flight at San Francisco International Airport. “Hopefully, it’ll pay off in the end. I’ve been in the air a long time. It’s been a long trip and I can’t wait to get back home and relax.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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