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Red, White and Blue Summer

October 23, 2013
 | 
Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

The baseball team concludes fall workouts with the Maroon and White Series, scheduled for Wednesday (Oct. 23) and Thursday (Oct. 24) at 3 p.m. Game three is Friday (Oct. 25) at 6 p.m.

RED, WHITE AND BLUE SUMMER

Daniel Mengden's sophomore success in Aggieland
landed him a spot on Team USA and a chance to see the world

by Erin Brown '14
12th Man Productions


Daniel Mengden has always enjoyed playing all sports.

But there was something special about baseball.

As a 5-year-old, Mengdon had big dreams. He remembers telling his dad, “I want to play in the pros and make the hall of fame.”

The response he got?

“Well, good luck.”

"Once I came for a visit (to A&M), and went to a football game, I was sold. You can’t help but fall in love with it."

- Daniel Mengden

That little bit of luck, and a lot of hard work, has taken Mengden to places he always hoped he could go.

When he was 15, he started to realize baseball could be something more than a pastime for him…then the college offers started rolling in. Mengden got offers from all over the country, but he knew he wanted to stay in Texas close to his family. He narrowed it down to Rice, TCU, and Texas A&M, but family ties and the spirit of Aggieland brought him to College Station. His dad, uncle and a few cousins all graduated from A&M.

“Once I came for a visit, and went to a football game, I was sold,” Mengden said. “You can’t help but fall in love with it.”

His baseball career at Texas A&M wasn’t always a walk in the park. As a freshman, he lost his job as the closer.

“I just had to work harder. Then my chance came, and ever since then, I’ve ran with it.”

Head coach Rob Childress gave Mengden the chance to start on Tuesdays, and ever since his role has continued to grow.

In 2013, he got the nod on Saturdays behind senior Kyle Martin. As each week went by, Mengden continued to clean out opponents’ lineups. Carrying his own weight, he moved up to the Friday spot.

Personally taking on more responsibility, he realized the better he did, the better the team did. After he earned that spot, he told himself, “I have to do this. I have to be spot on.”

About a month into the season, Mengden got on a roll. With the help of the defense--and rest of his teammates—the Aggies compiled a résumé that gave them a chance to advance to the post season.

Mengden’s success last spring led him to represent his country, playing summer ball with USA Baseball’s national team.

“I think it was SEC tournament weekend,” he recalls. “Coach Childress and the rest of the staff brought me into the hotel room and told me they needed to talk to me. At first, I thought I was in trouble; but he sat me down and told me I had been selected to play for Team USA.”

There were about 40 players from schools around the country were selected to try out for the team. After that came a 10-day evaluation period, with a series of tune-up scrimmages in the Coastal Plain League. Each pitcher threw three innings, and from there, they had individual meetings to let them know who made the final 24-man roster.

When Mengden was called in, he was asked if he would like to play for Team USA.

"Being able to represent Texas A&M, the coaches, the whole team, along with myself and my family…I never imagined I would be able to do that."

- Daniel Mengden

“Being able to represent Texas A&M, the coaches, the whole team, along with myself and my family…and to do it for the nation…that moment was just…I never imagined I would be able to do that. I was honored to be a part of the team, and to get to play with all of those guys.”

All of the players at least knew of each other through summer leagues, all-star teams, or competing at the collegiate level. But for once, they had the chance to get to know one another in a different way. They all got to hang out, exchange tips and just enjoy each other’s company.

Team USA traveled to Japan over the summer to compete in a five-game series against the Japanese collegiate national team. Even though the team’s busy schedule kept them from exploring, they got to take in some of Japan’s culture on the field.

In the first two games of the series, there was a band designated to play for each team. The band would play when their team was on offense. Every time a batter stepped in the box, they got louder and would scream things in Japanese at the top of their lungs. The team’s interpreter told them they were saying the name of the batter and then chanting, “go-hit-go!”

The band intended to support and motivate the team, but it was in a way Team USA was not used to. The difference of the ballpark’s environment was an adjustment for the team as well.

“It was nerve-racking,” Mengden said. “It was very distracting as a pitcher.”

The series was tied at two heading into a deciding fifth game at 38,000-seat Meiji Jingu Stadium, home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the NPB (Japan’s equivalent to Major League Baseball). It was the home team, however, who would take the series with a 7-4 victory.

The team headed back to the United Stated where they swept the world’s No. 1-ranked IBAF (International Baseball Federation) team, Cuba, in a five-game series.

Even though these games were played in an environment Team USA was used to, it was still unique--but in a whole new way. The team representing Cuba was the national team—the same one that plays in the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics. The Cuban team was made up of 20- to 35-year old men, hardly any speaking English.

This Cuban team was not used to playing on fields so large, and it was easy for Mengden to see the joy they had just from being there.

“They played the game so much different from us,” he said. “I thought they might get nervous playing in front of so many people, but they were so relaxed. They just had fun with it. It was like they were playing in the backyard with friends.”

In the fourth game of the series, Mengden stepped on the mound with runners on first and second and two outs. He ended the inning without allowing the batter to reach base, then came back in the next inning and did not allow a single run.

“I did my job, then handed the ball off to the next guy,”

So how will he remember his summer of seeing the world and representing his country?

“Overall, the experience was a blast. Learning the ways of all the different players and getting to know them was a lot of fun. Just being able to play with a bunch of guys that know the game and are really talented was awesome. Traveling all over the world with them, and making new friendships was something I liked most. I still stay in touch with some of those guys.

“Representing the United States was such an honor and I had a blast playing for Team USA.”

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