He goes by the name of O.J. not because he has a juice of an arm, but because his full name his name is Osvaldo Jose Mendez, but his teammates and coaches prefer to call the McPherson's Pipeliners' ace pitcher O.J.
Baseball has always been a part of Mendez's life from back when his father was a baseball player back in his country, but never made it far after high school compared to O.J., who is currently committed to Kansas City Kansas Community College after transferring from Wabash Valley College in Illinois, where he redshirted for one year.
Mendez grew up in Carolina, Puerto Rico, which is 15 minutes outside of San Juan. He has already been accustom to English because he went to bilingual schools, and playing video games with his friends and relatives didn't hurt either.
"Puerto rico is really nice, there's a lot of beaches and touristic places," Mendez said. "There are a lot of places to go. McPherson is nice too, and I like it so far. It's not compared to home, but I can adjust to it."
Puerto Rico will always be home for Mendez, especially when he had to deal with one of the scariest moments in his life. It was on Sept.16 when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, including Mendez's home town. With Hurricane Maria being one of the most deadliest natural disasters yet, an estimated 4600 people have been killed from that moment on. Mendez wasn't there at the time as he was in school when all of this happened. However, his parents, both accountants, were back home during the natural disaster. Luckily, none of his family members were harmed, but Mendez did not know it at the time because of Puerto Rico's lack of electricity.
"It was a scary moment," Mendez said. It gave me the chills. I couldn't remember the last time I talked to my parents before the hurricane."
His family had to build their homes from scratch and had to deal with limited electricity in Carolina.
McPherson, Kansas is far from being compared to Puerto Rico, however, Mendez felt comfortable living in McPherson during the Pipeliners' season.
"There's a lot places to get food," Mendez said. "The people are very nice. I feel like there are things to do if you know where to go."
Pipeliners head coach Caleb Hartman before the start of their' inaugural season, was searching and scouting pitchers from all over the country. He took a notice of Mendez from his days of playing in the Perfect Game League. He would then get in contact with his high school coach to learn more about him, and he received nothing but high-praised. It was then Hartman and Mendez started to communicate with one another.
"Hartman was going through that roster and really liked what he saw with O.J.," Pipeliners' assistant coach Chad Pinson said. "He started communicating with him, and he just felt like this will be a good fit for him, and from what I understand, he's extremely happy that he gets to go to McPherson. Not only is he's a great pitcher, but his character, his demeanor and his support from his teammates is phenomenal, and thats what it takes to build a winning team."
Mendez started five games on the mound for the Pipeliners. This past season he pitched 15 strikeouts, and only gave up two home runs. The Pipeliners were 3-2 when O.J. is on the mound.
Puerto Rico has its fair shares of producing a pipeline of Major League baseball players. Some who Mendez know personally back in his home town. His cousin Michael Rivera plays for the Seattle Mariners affiliate team, the Everett Aqua Sox, and his best friend Alan Marrero is the catcher for Boston Red sox minor league team, the Lowell Spinners. It's no question that Mendez hopes one day he makes it to the MLB as well, knowing that's a long journey itself.
"Thankfully I have good communications with them, so I know a little bit of that life over there," Mendez said.
However, if it does not work for him, he does have a knack for mathematics and numbers, and wants to follow his parents footsteps as an accountant after he's done with school and baseball.
Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Petes_Picks_orour sports page @MacCountySports