By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17
From the very beginning of his journey as a baseball coach roughly 20 years ago, Mervyl Melendez has had his eye on the FIU head coaching job. He always saw FIU as a place he could one day call home.
That day arrived June 28 when Melendez was introduced as FIU baseball’s new head coach at a press conference at FIU Baseball Stadium, becoming the fourth head coach in program history.
“I am happy to have this opportunity to lead FIU baseball to where it needs to be nationally,” said Melendez. “I will dedicate my life to FIU baseball.”
Melendez, 42, comes to South Florida with an impressive résumé that includes 17 years of head coaching experience at Alabama State and Bethune-Cookman, 537 career wins and 12 conference titles. He also hopes to bring an aggressive style of baseball that combines speed and power offensively with sound defense and pitching.
“You’re going to see a good brand of baseball. It’s going to be exciting to watch,” Melendez said.
FIU’s new coach is no stranger to recruiting in South Florida, an area he has targeted for years at Alabama State and Bethune-Cookman. He vowed to make the area a top priority in building a nationally competitive program.
“This is a job that was always appealing to me because of the recruiting area. The talent level here is unlimited,” Melendez said. “We have great players from this area and we are going to make sure that FIU is at the top of their list.”
He comes to FIU fresh off a successful five-year stint as the head coach for Alabama State, which included four consecutive 30-win seasons, setting the school record for wins and earning Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Coach of the Year honors in 2014 and 2016.
This season, Melendez led the program to its first SWAC Championship and first NCAA Division I Tournament appearance. He also became the third youngest head coach in Division I baseball history to reach 500 career wins (42 years, 22 days).
Prior to Alabama State, Melendez helped Bethune-Cookman win 14 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) titles as a player, assistant coach and head coach between 1995 and 2011.
The national search for a new head coach began two weeks ago shortly after Turtle Thomas stepped down from the position after seven seasons at the helm. The Panthers finished the 2016 season with a 29-29 record and lost two of three games at the Conference USA Championship tournament.
“One thing I promised our players was that we were going to get them the best possible coach out there,” said FIU Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment Pete Garcia. “Today, without a doubt, I am 100 percent confident that we have been able to do that.”