Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mendez Attracts Attention

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mendez Attracts Attention

Article excerpt

WEEHAWKEN - Most people will tell you St. Joseph star Rob Kaminsky is the best high school pitcher in New Jersey.

But under the thundering buses and trucks near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, major league scouts are watching Weehawken senior lefty Sal Anthony Mendez, too.

What's not to like? The Mendez scouting report practically writes itself. Six feet 4, a lean 185 pounds, fastball in the high 80s, improving slider and plus change-up. And did we mention lefty?

Mendez also has the pedigree. His father, Sabah, was a draft choice out of Julia Richman High School (N.Y.) by the Yankees in 1974. And, of course, Sabah was a pitcher, and of course, he has taught his only son well.

"The story I am told is my father put a glove on my hand when I was 2 and he was so happy because apparently I picked up the baseball with my left hand," said Sal Mendez with a smile. "He went absolutely nuts, 'oh my, he's lefty. He's lefty!' "

Mendez bats and writes righty, but eats and throws with his left hand.

And when he got to Weehawken, Indians coach Anthony Stratton threw him into the rotation as a freshman. The thing that stood out to him then is the same thing that stands out to him now, Sal's poise.

"The first thing I always talk about is even as a freshman he was always just so mature and respectful and polite," said Stratton, in his seventh year at Weehawken. "And on the mound, it's the same thing. He had the mental maturity of a senior as a freshman on the mound."

But Mendez was largely an unknown until this past summer. He played for the Teaneck Titans and then had a chance to play for the East Cobb Braves, one of the best club teams on the summer circuit. East Cobb counts major-leaguers Jason Hayward (Braves) and Buster Posey (Giants) among its alumni.

Mendez didn't wilt against better competition and when the high school season started, major league scouts wanted another look at him.

"The other day, three scouts were here, the Reds, the Rockies, the Indians," Stratton said. "We've seen the Dodgers, the Rangers. He handles it all real well."

"At first when it started happening, it was a delight for me that I went from being unknown to a guy who is known around the country," Mendez said. …

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