Dublin High School Alum Joe Mello Signs Seattle Mariners Contract, Prepares for Minor Leagues Spring Training
Dublin High School Class of 2011 alum and Lewis-Clark State College student Joe Mello received the phone call of a lifetime earlier this month when the Seattle Mariners offered him a contract and possibility of pitching for a minor league team, a big step closer to pitching in “the show”. Joe took a few minute out of his intense training schedule to talk with OneDublin.org about his love for baseball and how he connected with the Seattle Mariners organization.
James Morehead: What triggered your passion for baseball?
Joe Mello: “I started playing baseball when I was two years old. Some of my first memories are of me with a bat and a ball in my hand, working out with my dad at our house. I’ve played baseball pretty much every day since then. Baseball’s always been a part of my life, and always will be. I’ve put all my eggs in one basket with baseball – it’s all I know. So far it’s paid off.”
Morehead: Baseball can be a polarizing sport – either you are a fanatic tracking every stat and metric, or you think baseball is boring. What makes baseball so addicting for the former group (which includes me, by the way).
Mello: “I love the competitive side of baseball, especially when it comes to pitching. I was a shortstop until the last two years when I converted into being a pitcher exclusively. I’m a competitive person and when I’m on the mound there’s no other place I’d rather be. I think what draws people in is the competitive nature of the game. While baseball is a different game – it’s more slow-paced and not as action-packed as football or basketball – you can really see the love players have for the game.”
Morehead: What drove you to switch from shortstop to pitcher?
Mello: “I used to pitch when I was a lot younger, but had a minor arm injury when I was twelve so I switched to shortstop, and was a shortstop at Dublin High School for all four years. I had Tommy John surgery in my senior year of high school and after completing rehab, and my second year at Chabot Community College, I started pitching again. I’ve always had a strong arm since I was little, and love throwing the ball as hard as I can. When I went to Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho I knew that shortstop wasn’t for me, and that I was meant to be a pitcher.
“There is a competitive side of pitching that I love. There are moments when it is all about you, and I love the feeling that I can change the game with one pitch. That’s what drew me in. God blessed me with a fantastic arm and I love being able to show that off, and use the tool I’ve been given to it’s full capacity.”
Morehead: At what point did you start believing that reaching the Major League level was more than just a childhood dream?
Mello: “When I was in my sophomore year of Dublin High School and could throw 91 miles per hour off the mound, I knew I had a gift. This last year at Lewis-Clark State College I ended up red shirting due to a minor pec injury and during that time I worked out as hard as I possibly could: leg workouts, speed and agility workouts, hill sprints, and so on. A year before that I also spent time at Driveline Baseball in Washington for additional training and was able to hit 100 mph on a crossover.
“The most important step in believing the Major Leagues was possible was knowing what I really wanted to be – which is a pitcher. Knowing that, I literally did everything I possibly could to make myself have the best chance possible. Hard workouts, constant long tosses and therapy on my arm. This summer I’ve been consistently throwing 94-95 mph and knew that I have a shot at making a name for myself someday.”
Morehead: What happens between games, the hard work fans don’t see?
Mello: “Every morning I go to the gym and do a bunch of ladder drills, speed and agility drills, and core work. Three times a week I’ll mix in hill sprints, karaokes, and back pedals. Pretty much every night I’ll focus on upper body, back work and triceps. Several times a week I’ll mix in squats. I believe squatting is really important, especially for pitchers. As a pitcher that throws hard you need to build a foundation that can support your body. There are no days off.”
Morehead: How did you get on the radar of the Seattle Mariners?
Mello: “I had just returned from college in Idaho with one more year left of eligibility. Because I’m 22 years old, my goal this summer was to sign a free agent deal; I knew my window was closing. I felt it was time to start my professional career.
“I went to an MLB tryout in Elk Grove where I threw bullpen for about ten teams. I thought I did really well, I touched 95 mph on the radar gun. About three weeks later I was down in San Luis Obispo with my dad for a baseball tournament and received a text message from a Seattle Mariners scout asking when I was going to pitch again. I knew that if the scout came and saw me pitch that I’d sign a deal with the Mariners. I was going to do whatever it took to get this guy to like me.
“The scout told me after he saw me pitched that he liked what he saw, that the Mariners were very interested, but that he’d have to get back to me. It was mid-late July and four weeks went by then five and I hadn’t heard back; I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I finally received the call when I was preparing for a job interview and the scout asked if I could fly to Seattle so his Scouting Director could see me pitch. Two weeks later I was pitching in the bullpen of Safeco Field for more Mariners scouts – it was an amazing experience.
“Finally, about a week later, I was at my sister’s house for a surprise party when I received the call from the Mariners’ scout. I went to my room, answered the call and was told they had a contract for me. Every since then I’ve been working out and preparing for Spring Training.”
Morehead: Tell me a bit more about that moment when the Seattle Mariners said they had a contract with your name on it.
Mello: “I’ve always dreamed about how I was going to feel when that moment came. I was overwhelmed with so many different emotions, happy that all the hard work had finally paid off, that everything was falling into place. I felt this was my one time to shine. I really didn’t know what to make if it at the time.”
Morehead: So what happens next?
Mello: “My contract is good through 2016 and the next step for me is to report to Spring Training in March. From there I have to make a Minor League team. As a signed free agent I’m an unknown, and I have to be better than everyone else to make a team.
“I’m definitely going to outwork everyone. There’s no doubt in my mind that if I do what I’m capable of doing, that I’ll have a shot.”
Morehead: For baseball players at Dublin High School, and other high schools across the country, who share your dream what advice do you have?
Mello: “Take advantage of every opportunity that you get. It’s a cliche, but you never know when your last game is going to be. You never know when it’s going to be over. It’s too fun of a game to take it for granted. Work your hardest at everything you do you.
“I’d also like to thank Dublin High School Coaches McHugh and Oravetz, and the entire City of Dublin. I love Dublin High School and had a great time there. I’m really excited to go back and visit the school!”