By John Philip Wyllie
Several years ago Marcos Mendoza ranked among the brightest baseball prospects in San Diego County. Following a stellar three-year career at Grossmont High School in which he contributed to a CIF championship and earned league co-MVP honors, Mendoza took to the hill for San Diego State. As an Aztec, his pitching success continued. In his junior year he notched a near record 118 strikeouts, had a 4-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio and sported a 90-mph fastball. Selected in the fifth round of the 2001 MLB amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians, Mendoza appeared to be in the fast lane headed toward the majors.
A self-described up and down career in the minor leagues for both the Indians and later for the Rockies, carried him as far as AA ball, but no further. This season, he is back home trying to get his derailed major league dream back on track with the San Diego Surf Dawgs.
“Marcos had a rough opening day in Yuma, but got he his rhythm back the last two times out. He has really pitched well and could be 2-1 instead of 1-2. His confidence is growing and I think we are seeing the real guy now,” said former Padres All-Star and current Surf Dawgs manager, Terry Kennedy. Kennedy believes Mendoza’a strength is in the variety of pitches that he throws. “When he is doing well, he commands the strike zone. His problem is that when he gets behind, he can get in trouble. He needs to stay ahead of the batters so that he can use his off-speed stuff. That is his forte.”
Mendoza stifled the Long Beach Armada in his lasting outing June 17 holding them to a single run and just two hits in the 6-1 victory. Performances like that are just what the struggling Surf Dawgs need if they are going to successfully defend their Golden League title.
“Things are looking good at this point,” Mendoza believes. “I like the way our team chemistry is coming together. When we first started out we were unsure of each other’s capabilities. Now that we have been on the road, played a few games together and started jelling, I think we understand what we are capable of doing. The series with Long Beach was a good one for us. Everybody played team baseball.” Mendoza thinks that series could be the turning point in his team’s fortunes. As for his own, all he can do is train hard and hope that he gets another crack at affiliated baseball. He would not be the first Surf Dawg to do so. Last year, pitcher Adam Johnson was tabbed by the Oakland A’s Triple A affiliate in Sacramento.
“Playing here is convenient, especially for me since I just got married six months ago, but everybody’s goal here is to get to the next level and into affiliated ball. Being at home though is awesome, so this is a great opportunity.”