Ivan Melendez’s record-breaking year among best in Texas baseball history

Texas+baseball+first+basemen+Ivan+Melendez+uses+his+glove+to+help+secure+the+out+at+first+base.+Texas+played+Rice+at+UFCU+Disch-Falk+Field+on+Feb+18%2C+2022.

Andrew Zamora/The Daily Texan

Texas baseball first basemen Ivan Melendez uses his glove to help secure the out at first base. Texas played Rice at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Feb 18, 2022.

Jordan Mitchell, Sports Reporter

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the June 7, 2022 flipbook.

Pitching coach Sean Allen admits that he usually takes offensive half-innings to go get water, use the restroom or talk to his pitching staff. 

Even so, he has never missed an Ivan Melendez at bat.

Batting an eye-popping .404 and leading the nation in home runs, slugging percentage and total bases, Melendez’s year has been historic. With his 29th home run at the Big 12 Tournament in Arlington, he broke Texas’ single-season record set by Kyle Russell, and during the Austin Regional, Melendez became the first college player to hit 30 home runs in a single season since San Diego’s Kris Bryant in 2013. 

Allen said that it would be a shame if the redshirt junior first baseman doesn’t win the Golden Spikes Award, annually given to the best amateur baseball player in the country.

“To do it in our park at this University, … you’re an elite, special player,” Allen said. “It’s been the most special season I’ve been a part of.”

Melendez’s record-breaking 29th home run ended a batting slump. After going 2-for-12 through the bulk of the Big 12 Tournament, Melendez blasted Texas’ first and only score in its 8-1 loss to Oklahoma in the championship game. 

After breaking the record, Melendez didn’t bask in the moment. 

“It’s great to see my hard work pay off and go deep at a major league ballpark,” Melendez said. “But I’m a team guy. I was probably the least productive this whole weekend from a team standpoint.”

A transfer from Odessa College, Melendez had an immediate impact at Texas, batting .319 in the four-hole as the Longhorns’ designated hitter last year. 

After 2021 first baseman Zach Zubia was drafted by the Miami Marlins, Melendez filled in his gap, subsequently being named a preseason first-team All-American.

Because of his power bat, hefty stature and previous time as a designated hitter, one might think Melendez would struggle playing first base at the Power Five level, but to date he’s only committed one fielding error.

“He is one of the most hardworking dudes,” redshirt sophomore shortstop Trey Faltine said. “You could see him walking down the street and never know he was Ivan Melendez. He’s just trying to make everyone around him better.”

Melendez’s commitment to his game, to Texas and his historic season at the plate have transformed the first baseman into a poster child for both Texas baseball and college baseball as a whole.

“I get a bunch of (mentions) on Twitter, Instagram, (and) everybody sends me all these crazy stats of Longhorns’ history with Kyle Russell and stuff,” Melendez said. “I just try not to pay mind to it. Our main focus is to win, and that’s what I try to do every day.”

Both Faltine and Allen believe that Melendez’s selflessness and hot bat make him a Longhorn worthy of the Golden Spikes and possibly having his No. 17 jersey retired by Texas baseball.

“He’s the greatest player that ever played college baseball in my opinion,” Faltine said. “Having him on our team and just being able to be around him every day is special.”