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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Injured shortstop biding his time

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Annie Marum
Annie Marum / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball vs Cal Double Header

It’s a common practice for new members of a team to pick up bats and helmets carelessly littered around the field in order to earn their place on the squad through a little dirty work.

But the last few days at the Arizona baseball practice, a strange sight can be seen — preseason All-American Alex Mejia is the one picking up the equipment.

“I want to be a great teammate to these guys,” Mejia said. “Any way I can help, (any) which way I can help. I want to be there for them.”

Mejia sprained his wrist diving for a ball during practice last Thursday, so he’s been unable to participate in any of the drills the last few days. Mejia said the itch to get back on the field has been killing him.

“I just try to find something to do whether it’s picking up trash, picking up balls, do something,” Mejia said. “That way I feel like I’m contributing to the team.”

Head coach Andy Lopez said Mejia will be 100 percent by opening night, but if the Wildcats — ranked No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll — want to have the success they’re predicted to this season, they’ll need the 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior every game they can.

Last season, Mejia started all 60 games at shortstop and batted .335, ranking him second among returning players. But Lopez said Mejia won’t pass the eye test — his intangibles are what separate him from the rest of the pack.

“If you watch Mejia every day, he’s the real deal,” Lopez said. “His makeup, his intangibles, and he’s a very good baseball player too.”

And while the honor of being named a second-team preseason All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association might seem like a lot of hype to live up to, Lopez said the team only needs Mejia to do exactly what he has in the past — be a strong defender who delivers with clutch at-bats.

But Lopez said Mejia brings much more to the table than just being a good player — he’s a great team leader.

With all the talking Mejia does on the field, he’ll have to contribute a lot to live up to his expectations.

Lopez said that that in every series he’s managed, an opposing coach has at least come up to him once and said, “Man that Mejia guy, does he ever shut up?”

“That’s what you want at the shortstop position,” Lopez said. “It’s right in the middle and, other than the pitcher, I think it’s the most important position. And he’s does a marvelous job with it.”

But with the season-opener just eight days away, Mejia isn’t concentrating on his injured wrist — he just wants to win.

“I don’t think I’m too worried about that right now,” he said. “As long as I do what I’m supposed to do on the field that will help us win, I pretty much think everything will fall into place.”

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