The rags-to-riches Hollywood plot of Alex Mejia’s life thickened last night.
A home run for the St. Louis Cardinals only three days after his promotion from Triple-A Memphis? The one-time out-of-shape, unnoticed high school player accounting for the two runs that amounted to the difference in the Cards’ 2-1 win over the Washington Nationals? Get outta here.
Mejia went from a high school shortstop recruited basically only by former Arizona coach Andy Lopez into a Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year selection as a junior when the Wildcats won the national title in 2012.
Alex Mejia on curtain call at Busch Stadium: “That was pretty cool. That was a neat feeling actually, having that many fans support you. It’s just an awesome feeling.”
On whole experience of being in the big leagues: “I’ve been asked by family and friends, ‘How is it?’ … The game itself hasn’t really changed for me. Obviously, the fans make a huge difference, but I want to say everything around it, the clubhouse, the food, everything … that stuff is kind of cool to me.”
On where the saved baseballs will go from his single and home run: “Most likely my parents. I don’t care much for that.”
His parents, Carlo and Norma Mejia, did not have the financial means to pay for themselves to attend the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. Donations from family and friends totaling more than $1,500 allowed them to travel to Omaha from their home in Sylmar, Calif.
The family fortunes turned for the better because of how Alex worked diligently to change himself from an overweight player coming out of high school into one of baseball’s best prospects in 2012. The Cardinals drafted him in the fourth round that year.
“I weighed 213 pounds,” Mejia recalled about his weight problem coming out of high school to ESPN during the College World Series five years ago. “If you would’ve looked at my body back then, you would’ve laughed.”
He trimmed down to a solid 200 pounds during his Arizona career.
Mejia’s name — not necessarily his talent — drew Lopez’s attention when he attended Arizona’s camp following his junior season in high school. Lopez played against Mejia’s father in high school and college in the 1970s. Lopez starred at UCLA while Carlo competed for Pepperdine.
When Lopez noticed “Mejia” on the back of Alex’s jersey during the camp, he confirmed with Alex that Carlo is his dad.
“His passion to succeed, his intangibles, his knowledge of the game … Alex has it all,” Lopez told ESPN. “I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.”
After last night’s performance, which included an RBI single in his first at-bat, Mejia showed the Cardinals and their fans what Lopez and the Wildcat faithful already knew — he is a keeper.
He played at second base for the Cardinals last night.
The following are many noteworthy Tweets signifying Mejia’s memorable first night in the big leagues.
ALEX MEJIA'S 1ST @MLB HOME RUN!!!
Numbers on Alex Mejia's 💣
1st MLB HR
102 MPH off the bat
390 ft. pic.twitter.com/9HcgMeiNrt
Alex Mejia had 15 minor league home runs over nearly 2,000 plate appearances.
He has 1 major league home run over 6 plate appearances
Alex Mejia is ready for his major league debut! 💪 pic.twitter.com/Sc96S1chn1
If you don't remember how great Alex Mejia was
2012 Pac-12 POTY & Defensive POTY
2-time All-Pac-12 pick
1st Team All-American pic.twitter.com/QtqfsuNMGC
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.