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Syracuse’s Danny Mendick feels like a kid again facing his hometown Rochester Red Wings

How former Pittsford Mendon baseball standout Danny Mendick recorded his first hit as a Major League Baseball player back in 2019 came as no surprise to anyone who has ever known him or seen him play.

It was equal parts grit, skill, and perhaps more than anything, a byproduct of his mindset that he was going to do whatever it takes to get the job done, which has been his modus operandi dating back to Little League.

Mendick was called up by the Chicago White Sox when rosters expanded in September and in his first big league start on Sept. 5 at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, the 25-year-old struck out and flew out in his first two at bats against Zach Plesac. When he came up again in the sixth inning there were runners on first and second and nobody out, so White Sox manager Rick Renteria signaled for him to bunt.

“I was terrified,” said Mendick, who has been in Rochester this week playing for the Syracuse Mets against the Red Wings at Innovative Field. “I knew when I was walking up I’m probably bunting. So I got (the sign) and I’m like shaking, you know, you’re like nervous.”

After fouling a pitch off and then taking a called strike, Mendick looked down at the third-base coach and to his surprise the bunt was still on, even though there were two strikes. And this is where a lifetime of wanting to prove that he can do anything that is asked of him began reverberating in his brain.

Danny Mendick moved from the Chicago White Sox organization to the New York Mets over the winter.

“I’d have to say it was probably just the little man in me,” Mendick said, trying to explain where that attitude comes from. “When I was younger, I was always smaller than everybody, but I never wanted to be like the worst at anything. Whatever it was, if we were playing outside in the yard, if we were playing in gym class or anything like that, I always wanted to be the best. And I think it just mostly came from kind of holding myself to a higher standard. My parents held me to a high standard so that when I went out and did different things, I always wanted to just compete and be better.”

So Mendick stepped back into the batters’ box, Plesac, one of Cleveland’s best pitchers, delivered a slider, and Mendick squared and dropped down a beauty between the mound and third base. There was no doubt the runners would move up safely, but then came an added bonus. With Mendick hustling to first, Plesac failed to come up with the ball and Mendick was credited with a bunt single and a new memento for his trophy case, his first MLB hit ball.

He laughs now at the memory as he re-tells the story.

“I’m sitting there thinking to myself, ‘Alright, this is probably going to make or break my career,”’ he said, knowing that was perhaps a bit hyperbolic. “Like if I get this down, I’ll be able to work. So I told myself I’m gonna put my face right in front of this damn thing. If I lose all my teeth, I’m gonna get this thing down.”

Former Pittsford Mendon standout Danny Mendick has been at Innovative Field this week playing for the Syracuse Mets.

Former Pittsford Mendon standout Danny Mendick has been at Innovative Field this week playing for the Syracuse Mets.

It was not the way he envisioned his first MLB hit coming about, but in the box score it might as well have been a stinging line drive. Like, for instance, the hit he delivered in his next at bat, a liner up the middle for a single.

Mendick had played at Innovative Field back in 2019 when he was with the White Sox Triple-A team in Charlotte, so this week’s visit was not unique. More like old home week, really, because he spent so many days and nights at the ballpark formerly known as Frontier Field attending Red Wings games.

His 92-year-old grandfather, Bill Mendick Sr., is the longest-tenured season-ticket holder in Wings history at nearly 75 years, so you can only imagine how many times he has seen the Wings play dating back to their days on Norton Street. Danny’s father, Bill, often accompanied his father to games, and the tradition continued when Danny came along.

Pittsford Mendon's Danny Mendick (right) throws to first over HF-L baserunner Chris Dickinson during a first round game of the Class A sectionals played at Honeoye Falls High School on May 25, 2010.

Pittsford Mendon’s Danny Mendick (right) throws to first over HF-L baserunner Chris Dickinson during a first round game of the Class A sectionals played at Honeoye Falls High School on May 25, 2010.

2019: He’s had Red Wings season tickets for 70 years, now he gets to watch his grandson play

“It’s always fun, you come here when you’re a kid, and when you get the opportunity to come back and actually play, see all the memories, the smells and stuff like that, it’s all the same; nothing changed,” he said. “We would come and just enjoy it, and at the time there wasn’t any of the nets up there so we would always bring our gloves and be aware of foul balls.”

When he wasn’t trying to corral a souvenir, Danny’s father would make sure he was paying attention to what was happening on the field because he knew his son had a chance to be out there someday if he put his mind to it.

“My dad used to always say, ‘Just look at these guys. Is there anything they can do that you can’t?’” Danny recalled. “And that was kind of the mindset that I always had whenever I would come here and watch those games. They make diving plays and I was like, ‘I could do that.’ I was young, but I still always thought that way. And then to be able to actually be here now and have gotten to the big leagues, it’s like, ‘Yeah, you trust your abilities and just prove everybody wrong.'”

Pittsford Mendon second baseman Danny Mendick fields a ground ball during a 2010 sectional game played at Honeoye Falls High School.

Pittsford Mendon second baseman Danny Mendick fields a ground ball during a 2010 sectional game played at Honeoye Falls High School.

In high school, he was a three-year starter at Mendon, earning All-Greater Rochester honors as a shortstop in 2011 when he hit .473 and was a fourth-team All-State selection. He had no offers to play baseball at the Division I level, so he went to Monroe Community College to build up his resume and after hitting .364 with 26 RBI as a sophomore, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell – which was moving up to Division I in 2014 and needed quality players – took notice.

“Going into that spring, I didn’t have anything,” Mendick said of his last season at MCC. “It was pretty much, I’m gonna go out there and play as best I can and pray that a team recognizes it.”

At UMass-Lowell he hit .321 and as a senior was selected first-team All-America East and second-team Division I by ABCA/Rawlings, and that was enough for the White Sox to spend their 22nd-round pick on Mendick in the 2015 draft.

He journeyed through the White Sox farm system for four years, playing at Winston-Salem, Kannapolis (NC), Birmingham and finally Charlotte where, in 2019 he had a breakthrough season. He played 133 games, hit .279 and slugged a career-best 17 homers with 64 RBI. That warranted the September call-up to Chicago.

2019: Pittsford Mendon and MCC grad Danny Mendick called up to Chicago White Sox

2019: Danny Mendick records two hits for the Chicago White Sox in his first major league start

To date he has played 151 MLB games, all with the White Sox between 2019 and 2022, and he maintains a .251 average, a .309 on-base percentage and a .675 OPS. However, just when he started putting things together in Chicago last season – he was hitting .289 with a .786 OPS in mid-June – he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

While rehabbing in the offseason he became a free agent and the Mets signed him on Dec. 22, confident that he’d be ready to go for spring training, which he was. He didn’t make the star-studded, high-payroll roster so he was sent to Syracuse where, now at the age of 29, he’s been a solid, veteran presence for a club that is struggling.

“I think it’s one of those things where you enjoy where you’re at and right now I’m with the Syracuse Mets,” he said. “An opportunity could arise, some people get hurt, but I just have to find a way to always be ready for my opportunity. So whether it’s here with the Mets or if something ever happens and I get traded, I have to be ready at all times, no matter what it is.”

That’s nothing new for Mendick because he has built his baseball life doing exactly that.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. To subscribe to Sal’s newsletter, Bills Blast, which will come out every Friday during the offseason, please follow this link:

2020: Pittsford Mendon grad Danny Mendick living a ‘dream’ at White Sox spring training

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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Syracuse Mets’ Danny Mendick sees life come full circle in Rochester

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