Ivan Melendez on track to break home run history

Vicente Montalvo

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Daily Texan.

Last season, Ivan Melendez played in the NJCAA for Odessa College and batted .354 through 22 games. This year, Melendez is chasing Division I baseball history as the hottest hitter on the Texas Longhorns.

Two people currently hold the record for most consecutive games with a home run at eight: Duke pitcher Ryan Jackson, set in 1994, and Georgia Tech third baseman Andy Bruce in 1991. Redshirt sophomore infielder Melendez currently has six consecutive games with a home run, and he hit two bombs in the team’s last game against Kansas State on Sunday. Melendez said he still hasn’t gotten used to his phone blowing up with congratulatory messages and social media mentions.

“The last time I’ve gotten this much attention on social media is when I committed here,” Melendez said during a press conference Sunday. “I don’t know if it’s just the University and the brand or the logo, but I think just being here is pretty awesome. It gives you the attention (you strive for).”

When only looking at hitters who have had at least two plate appearances and have played in 75% of Longhorn games this season, Melendez leads the team in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging and RBI.

His recent performances over the past two weeks have garnered recognition from the conference. He was tabbed as the Big 12’s Co-Newcomer of the Week on April 5 before earning Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday.

Head coach David Pierce said he knew he had a productive player when Melendez made the transition from junior college to Division I, but he did not expect him to chase NCAA records.

“I think everybody’s a little taken back,” Pierce said during Sunday’s conference. “We knew he could hit. He’s the best guy, potentially the best hitter on the team.”

Before Melendez was chasing history at UT, he was a high school prospect from El Paso, Texas at Coronado High School. Despite receiving First Team All-State honors as a senior, Melendez received only one offer at the Division I level.

“I only had one Division I offer out of high school which was New Mexico State,” Melendez said during a press conference Wednesday. “It didn’t work out for my family and me. I thought that going (to junior college) was the best decision for my career.”

Once at Odessa College, Melendez’s power hitting caught the eye of several major college programs. Texas, however, might not have taken a chance on the infielder had it not been for the advice of nine-year MLB veteran and UT alum Omar Quintanilla.

Quintanilla and Melendez both hail from El Paso, Texas, and according to Quintanilla’s Instagram page, he worked with the current Longhorn on his game.

“We got a pretty good tip from a former University of Texas player that played in the big leagues, Omar Quintanilla,” Pierce said at the Wednesday conference. “It was just a great combination of we needed a power bat, Omar gave him a great endorsement, and then he was ready to move on.”

Melendez has the opportunity to tie the record during a midweek, two-game series against Nevada. If he gets through that series, he can break the record Friday against Abilene Christian.

While Texas fans will watch with anticipation every at-bat Melendez has over the next three games, the junior college transfer said he is not changing his approach at the plate.

“I don’t really think about it,” Melendez said. “I just go out there and just try to hit the ball and help the team win.”