Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the June 7, 2022 flipbook.
Pitching coach Sean Allen admits he usually takes offensive half-innings to get water, use the bathroom or talk to his pitching team.
Even so, he never missed an Ivan Melendez at bat.
Batting a mind-boggling .404 and leading the nation in homers, slugging percentage and total bases, Melendez’s year was historic. With his 29th homer at the Big 12 Tournament in Arlington, he broke the Texas single-season record set by Kyle Russell, and during the Austin Regional, Melendez became the first college player to hit 30 home runs in a single season since that from San Diego. Kris Bryant in 2013.
Allen said it would be a shame if the redshirted junior first baseman didn’t win the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the top amateur baseball player in the nation.
“To do it in our park at this university, … you’re an elite and special player,” Allen said. “It’s been the most special season I’ve participated in.”
Melendez’s record 29th homer ended a batting fall. After going 2-for-12 for most of the Big 12 tournament, Melendez blasted Texas’ first and only scoreline in their 8-1 loss to Oklahoma in the championship game.
After breaking the record, Melendez didn’t enjoy the moment.
“It’s great to see my hard work pay off and go far in a major league ballpark,” Melendez said. “But I’m a team guy. I was probably the least productive of the whole weekend from a team perspective.
A transfer from Odessa College, Melendez made an immediate impact in Texas, batting .319 in the four-hole as the Longhorns’ designated hitter last year.
After 2021 first baseman Zach Zubia was drafted by the Miami Marlins, Melendez filled his void, subsequently being named a preseason first-team All-American.
Due to his power bat, towering stature, and time as a designated hitter, you’d think Melendez would struggle to play first base at the Power Five level, but to date, he hasn’t. made only one mistake on the pitch.
“He’s one of the hardest-working guys,” said redshirt sophomore shortstop Trey Faltine. “You could see him walking down the street never knowing he was Ivan Melendez. He just tries to make everyone around him better.
Melendez’s commitment to his game, to Texas, and his historic season at home plate turned the first baseman into a poster boy for Texas baseball and college baseball as a whole.
“I get a bunch of (mentions) on Twitter, Instagram, (and) everyone sends me all these crazy stats of Longhorns history with Kyle Russell and stuff,” Melendez said. “I just try not to pay attention to it. Our main goal is to win, and that’s what I try to do every day.
Both Faltine and Allen believe Melendez’s selflessness and hot batting make him a worthy Longhorn for the Golden Spikes and maybe his No. 17 jersey was retired by Texas baseball.
“He’s the greatest player that’s ever played college baseball in my opinion,” Faltine said. “Having him in our team and being able to be with him every day is special.”