RedHawks third baseman Mendonca feels right at home in Fargo
FARGO—From getting drafted into the MLB after an improbable NCAA Division I baseball tournament, to scraping to get by in the minor leagues, RedHawks third baseman Tommy Mendonca wouldn't change a thing about his story.
He was the 2008 College World Series MVP as a sophomore with Fresno State, helping lift the Bulldogs to a 6-1 win over Georgia in the title game. Over the course of the tournament, Mendonca hit four home runs and had 11 RBIs while anchoring the Bulldogs defense with two dislocated fingers.
Mendonca's fourth-seeded Fresno State was the lowest seeded team to win the national championship in NCAA history.
He was drafted in the second round (62nd overall) by the Texas Rangers in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft. Making it to the MLB was a dream come true for Mendonca, but that didn't mean he was set up for a long career in the majors.
"There are a lot of things that the normal person wouldn't understand because we think you get drafted then you automatically make a ton of money, which is far from reality," Mendonca said. "You're working and hoping to sign a signing bonus to help you survive."
Mendonca was making $1,400 a month playing ball. He tried changing positions by switching to catcher, which turned out to hinder him more than help. Mendonca moved back to third base, struggled and was then selected by the Oakland Athletics in the Rule 5 draft.
One week into the season, he was released by the A's. Mendonca spent most of the 2013 season in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, where he hit .257 with one home run and 20 RBIs with the Reading Fightin Phils (Pa.).
That's where Mendonca's story in the major leagues ends, but he's fine with that.
"Just having success in Double-A and making it to Triple-A was a good, fun ride," Mendonca said.
He has spent the last five seasons with American Association baseball teams. He spent three seasons with Sioux City from 2014-2016, last season with Lincoln and is currently in his first year with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
This season, the veteran third baseman is currently fifth on the RedHawks in batting average at .284 and tied for third in home runs with three.
On Friday, he went 2-for-4 with a run scored in the RedHawks 6-3 win over Wichita, to push them to 17-15 on the season.
"I'm just trying to be an all-around baseball player," Mendonca said. "I'm not trying to make errors, not trying to do too much or too little."
He is still contributing to the RedHawks on the field, but has become the team's go-to guy in the clubhouse.
"If someone needs help, I help them out and if they need to talk about something they can come talk to me," Mendonca said.
RedHawks manager Michael Schlact is glad to have someone who loves the game like Mendonca on his team.
"He's somebody you can count on to lead on and off the field," Schlact said. "His ability to play defense is hard to find. He's a gamer. He doesn't care about the money or status, he just wants to play the game."
According to Mendonca, landing in Fargo has been a bright spot in his career. He described Fargo as a "top-notch place to be."
Even more so than the the appreciation he has for Fargo's atmosphere and citizens, is his gratefulness to be a part of the team.
"I have no complaints and never will have complaints," Mendonca said. "The coaching staff is phenomenal, it can't get much better than what we've got right now. The clubhouse, the guys on the team make it enjoyable every day."
Through the ups and downs of his career, Mendonca wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's been exciting, been a roller coaster, but I wouldn't change anything," Mendonca said.