After graduating in May 2012, Mike McCarthy’s plans were to move to El Paso, live out of Vinnie Mejia’s garage and the pair would go out to baseball tryouts in the hopes of continuing their baseball careers.
“(Mejia’s) dad was setting up the garage for me to stay there, work out and go to tryouts,” the Connecticut native said. “But then I planned on going home. Once this came up, I decided to stay down here throughout the spring semester and work out.”
As fate would have it, both players, along with two other former Broncs, found themselves on the roster for the Roswell Invaders of New Mexico, part of the Pecos League, and reported to the team in May.
According to Mejia, playing for the Pecos League was not something he planned. He was originally going to continue his education at UTPA, but when the team called asking him to play, Mejia couldn’t refuse.
The men faced an unexpected opportunity, but despite this, the men enjoyed their time spent on the Invader’s field.
While with the team, players are set up with host families to provide a place for them to live during the season. Roswell officials worked it out so all four could live together. According to McCarthy, they all stayed in one room and he and Mejia even shared a bunk bed.
“I remember getting there and getting introduced to our host family, and looking at our home from the summer, to winning our first championship,” Mejia said.
Although the former Broncs suited up with Roswell on a whim, the four men were soon turning heads.
The Invaders finished their season July 29 as the Pecos League Champions, while second baseman Mejia earned regular season MVP honors and catcher McCarthy earned postseason MVP honors.
“Honestly, it’s pretty cool. It feels good to be MVP of a league; I don’t care what league you’re in,” said 23-year-old Mejia. “It’s not only for myself, but for my dad and family. After years of baseball, it all felt worth it.”
Not only are these men recognized by their current league, but they are also fondly remembered by their friends and old teammates. Adrian De La Rosa, is close friends with all four alumni.
He played alongside them as Broncs and his baseball roots with Mejia go back to when they played high school ball together in El Paso.
“Vinnie (Mejia) is unbelievable,” De La Rosa said. “He can hit for power…he hits the longest home runs that anyone one has ever seen here at the baseball field in Edinburg.”
Though he is closest with Mejia, De La Rosa considers all four men his compadres.
“We roomed together here at Pan Am for the last couple of years,” 24-year-old De La Rosa said. “We grew to be like brothers. We made a deal to stay in close contact, being the close friends that we are.”
All four players finished their collegiate baseball careers in 2012, when the program finished with their first winning season in 12 years. It was quite a stepping stone for then-four-year Head Coach Manny Mantrana.
“All four of these young men were outstanding baseball players and more importantly they were all quality people,” Mantrana said. “They were instrumental in moving our program forward and really contributed to our success. All four of them will be successful in whatever endeavor they choose in the future.”
ON THE DIAMOND
The players may have plenty of close ties to the Valley, but that isn’t stopping them from showing off their skills with the Invaders.
Bernal played shortstop for the Invaders and was hitting 0.31. In his rookie season he’s had five double plays, one triple, one home run and 49 runs batted in. He stole a total of 14 bases in 66 games.
McCarthy played catcher with the Invaders and was hitting .328 with 13 doubles, one triple and five home runs to his name. This includes 34 RBI in 52 games.
Mejia played third base and was 19th in the Roswell league in hitting at.396. In 255 at bats he hit 19 home runs and had 88 RBI. According to the team’s website, Mejia was one of the best offensive players on the Pecos League’s Best Team (the Roswell Invaders).
Right-handed pitcher Sa was second in the league with a pitcher score of 200. He struck out 54 in 73.1 innings.
Four other Bronc alumni are also currently playing professionally.
Right-handed pitcher Dusten Knight was drafted in the 28th round of this year’s MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants. Right-handed pitcher Michael Zouzalik signed as an undrafted free agent by the Texas Rangers last summer after completing his eligibility with the Broncs.
Third baseman and Sharyland alumnus Angel Ibañez was selected in the 28th round of last year’s MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.
Frank James Jr., a left-handed pitcher who played for the Broncs from 2001-02, was drafted by the San Angelo Colts.
As of Aug. 3, Mejia was traded to the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League. Mejia will continue the rest of the season with the Crushers and will most likely have his contract extended to 2014.
Although Mejia is continuing his baseball career, players can never be certain of what’s in the future. According to McCarthy, all they can hope to do is continue playing.
“I have no idea what’s in store for next year. I’ll see if another team calls, another league. There’s a lot of factors,” McCarthy said. “I’ll just go one step at a time.”
Former Broncs Mike McCarthy (left) and Vinnie Mejia (bottom) were recruited to play for the Roswell Invaders of New Mexico, along with Jonathan Sa and Roger Bernal. Mejia now plays for the Lake Erie Crushers as of Aug. 3.