Image credit: Alex Mejia (Photo by David Kirouac/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, Ohio—It would be easy to call this the toughest season of Alex Mejia’s career.
“It definitely is a 180 from last year,” Mejia said.
Last year was the dream. It was the culmination of any player’s ultimate goal. After five seasons in the minors, Mejia was promoted to the big leagues last June. The shortstop/second baseman’s slick glove earned him a trip to St. Louis.
Mejia didn’t hit in his 29 games in St. Louis (he had 46 at-bats). In the offseason, Mejia was dropped from the 40-man roster. He returned to Memphis this season for a fourth stint in Triple-A, and at times he sat on the bench.
“He’s been ready to play all year for me, even when there are times where he didn’t play for multiple days in a row. He stayed ready to play,” Memphis manager Stubby Clapp said.
“He could have folded real easy. Him and I have a good relationship where we’ve kept things honest between each other. He responded the right way.”
Mejia ended up playing a little bit of everywhere. Instead of playing shortstop and second base, he played those positions plus first base, third base and right field. He pinch ran, pinch hit and DH’d.
“You can always find negatives in most anything you do, but we have a good coaching staff here and teammates that help each other out. I try to stay positive whether I’m playing every day or not,” Mejia said. “You could easily pack it in and worry about yourself, but it’s so fun playing with these guys.”
But in the final game of the 2018 minor league season, Mejia was the star. The former Arizona star went 5-for-5 with three runs scored and five RBIs to be named the Triple-A National Championship MVP.
“Obviously I was a little disappointed I wasn’t playing as much, but you want to go out and play hard,” Mejia said. “It could easily have been a season where it would have been easy to hang on those negative thoughts, but you finish the season strong and have fun.”
Mejia had plenty of help from the rest of the Memphis lineup as the Redbirds easily beat Durham, 14-4, in a rematch of last year’s Triple-A championship game. A year ago, the Bulls had beaten the Redbirds in the title game. This year, the Redbirds got their revenge.
Memphis eliminated any drama in the very early going. The Redbirds scored two runs off of Durham starter Chih-Wei Hu in the first inning, chasing him from the game. Memphis scored three more runs in the third and three more in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead. That was more than enough for Memphis starter Kevin Herget, who allowed only two runs in 5.1 innings.