February 23, 2012

On the Mound with Chris Mendoza

By: Nicole Grazioli '12

Junior Chris Mendoza had a stellar high school career in San Jose, establishing new school records in career wins, single-season wins, strikeouts innings pitched and ERA.  He was chosen as a 2009 ESPN Rise ALL-Bay Area honoree.  The right-handed pitcher's transition into college baseball was a difficult task, but he says it was also really fun.   

"There was so much more to baseball that I didn't know and I was extremely eager to learn as much as I possibly could when I started at Santa Clara," said Mendoza. "What really helped me was being as open as possible to trying new things and remembering that baseball is a kids game and that you just have to go out there and have some fun."

During his freshman year, the San Jose native made 16 appearances.  In his sophomore year he was named the WCC Pitcher of the Week in May.  It was an exciting moment in Mendoza's college career.

"It felt amazing to be named Pitcher of the Week and it is one of my proudest moments at SCU," he said.

Even though the Broncos had a tough season last year, the team has been working on improving from the past. 

"As a team we are always looking to improve," said Mendoza.  "Our motto this year is Relentless Development (RD) and I think that's the biggest change we are making.  We have a relentless development to get better every day and go out and compete every day so that on the last day of the season we end with a dogpile."  

The squad has also gone through a change in coaching staff with new head coach, Dan O'Brien, and assistants Gabe Ribas, Eddie Smith and Mike Oseguera.  According to Mendoza, the team could not be happier with the new leadership.

"The new coaching staff amazing," said Mendoza excitedly.  "Every single one of the coaches brings their own expertise and their own unique qualities. I think what our team loves most and what I love most about the new staff is the mentality they have brought since day one that we need to play hard and that we are going to win."

The new coaching staff has brought apparel changes too, bringing back the old-school uniforms from the 1920s and so far it has gotten a lot of positive response.

"I love bringing back the old uniforms," said Mendoza.  "I have always been a fan of the old-school look and was so excited to put on the jersey for our first game."

When looking at the season, Mendoza states that he wants to contribute to all aspects of the baseball team taking a leadership role on the mound, in the dugout and off the field. 

"On the mound my goal is to be one of our best pitchers whether that means starting games on the weekend or during the week, closing games, or being a go-to guy out of the pen to get us out of tough situations," Mendoza said.  "In the dugout my goal is to give our team energy and to pick up my fellow teammates.  Off the field my goal is to maintain academic success and make sure things are done the right way."

Mendoza has stepped up so far on the mound coming in in the bottom of the 12th and getting the Shockers 1-2-3 to end the game in the win versus Wichita State University, while also defeating University of Louisiana Lafayette when he came in and got the pinch-hitter to ground into a double play and cause another player to ground back to the mound to end the game.

The Broncos are 4-0 and Mendoza is looking forward to the rest of the season, especially when they play the best teams in the league.

"I'm really excited about our games against Stanford and Cal this year but the rivalry we have with San Jose State will be a fun matchup as well," he said.

The team's next game is it's home-opener tomorrow, Fri., Feb. 24 against University of Illinois at Chicago at Schott Stadium at 6:00pm.  Be sure to check out the game and support your Broncos!

To stay up-to-date throughout the SCU baseball season, follow on Twitter at: @SCU_Baseball and on Facebook: Santa Clara Broncos Baseball.