MJ Melendez feels compassion for the suffering of the people in Puerto Rico, who were crushed by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20 and have yet to recover.
Melendez, a 19-year-old native of Daytona Beach, is a star baseball player who graduated from Westminster Christian this past spring. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, signing for $2.1 million as a second-round selection.
Despite his new-found wealth, he still lives with his parents — both of whom are natives of Puerto Rico – and he has always wanted to give back to those less fortunate.
So, together with his father, FIU baseball coach Mervyl Melendez, MJ decided to host a baseball camp for kids ages 6 to 14, with all proceeds going to the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs in Puerto Rico.
The camp is set for Dec. 16 at FIU Baseball Stadium from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and there’s no set fee to register.
“We will take any monetary donation,” Melendez said, “whatever people are willing to give.”
Melendez said he has about 15 family members in Puerto Rico in addition to countless friends, including numerous players his father has recruited over the years.
“Thank God everyone we keep in touch with is OK, but the whole island has been harmed,” Melendez said. “I was devastated to see what happened — so many innocent people harmed.”
At times, Melendez said, people tend to forget that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S.
“I think it’s because Puerto Rico’s not connected to the U.S. physically,” he said. “But, either way, there are people in need. We are all humans. It’s the human race.
“These are people who have nothing. Everything they had was taken away by a natural disaster. I thought it was important to do my part to help kids.”
Melendez, his little brother and their parents will travel to Puerto Rico just before Christmas. And with the money raised, Melendez will work with the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs to buy whatever equipment is needed.
To register for the camp, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As for Melendez’s first couple of months of pro baseball this past summer, he hit .262 in 47 games, posting eight doubles, three triples, four homers and 30 RBI. He also walked 26 times, stole four bases in six attempts and had a solid .790 OPS while playing for Kansas City’s rookie-ball team.
In 30 games at catcher — he was used 17 times as a DH — Melendez made four errors, had three passed balls and threw out 26 percent of runners attempting to steal.
Melendez, a 6-1, 190-pounder, also coped with the blistering Arizona heat.
“At times, the temperatures reached 120 degrees,” Melendez said. “It was a grind. We practiced every day and played every night. The days were long and tough — on the field from 2 p.m. to 11 or midnight depending on how long the game went.”
One of Melendez’s fondest memories of the season was his first homer as a pro, a shot that went over the 410-foot sign in center field. The umpires didn’t realize initially that the ball had cleared the fence, causing Melendez to sprint to third before jogging home when they realized their mistake.
Either way, it was a great first year for Melendez.
“Before I got drafted, some scouts thought my hit tool wasn’t that great,” Melendez said. “But I think I proved I could hit good pitching.”