DeWitt Clinton player drafted by Oakland A’s
By Raphael Sugarman
Dennis D’Alessandro was looking down at his clipboard taking notes on a previous freshman hitter when he heard “crack, then crack, then crack,” said the baseball coach of the DeWitt Clinton Governors.
“I expected to see a monster standing there. Instead, I saw Melvin.”
The coach was referring to Melvin Mercedes, who was one of 200 or 300 young players trying out for a spot on the Governors that day. Nobody made a bigger impression on his coaches than Mercedes, who would become the team’s shortstop and leader for the next four years.
“Instantly, all you had to do was to see the way he attacked on ground balls, and you said, ‘Oh yeah, he is going to be a shortstop and amazing player.’”
Mercedes is still opening eyes. In early June, he was drafted by the Oakland A’s. He went in the 16th round, in the 499th spot. Mercedes is currently in Arizona working out at the A’s training camp.
“He basically carried us for four years,” said D’Alessandro. “If you have a shortstop that can make all the plays, you can make up for a lot of deficiencies on your team.”
Mercedes grew up first near Yankee Stadium and then Crotona Park.
He was inspired on the diamond by his cousins who played baseball and his mom Ramona who played softball.
Though he started his baseball career in New Jersey with the Toms River Little League, he returned to the Cibao league in the Bronx.
He also credits the Van Cortlandt Baseball League for much of his progress.
“For 10 years over the summers, me and my friends would go away for tournaments,” he said. “Instead of staying in bed, we learned in the summer leagues.”
Trevor Schaffer, a scout for the Yankees for seven years before coming to the A’s, discovered Mercedes.
Like D’Alessandro, Schaffer was hit out of the blue by Mercedes. He was covering a big college tournament comprised primarily of Florida ballplayers when he spotted Melvin.
“Normally, we have a background history with college players,” said Schaffer. “Watching his infield, quickness, I called up the scout who covers the Bronx to get some information about him.”