Unlike most recent high school graduates whose only summer plan is to wile away their final free days before college starts, Marc Mendel has jumped right into the next chapter of his life.
After dominating the Ivy League baseball circuit as Fieldston’s ace pitcher this past season, Mendel wasted little time in getting a jumpstart on his college career. So about a month ago, he packed his bags and headed west — 1,228 miles to be exact — landing in Lawrence, Kansas, and his new collegiate home, Kansas University.
And as you might expect, it’s been a bit of an adjustment from the hustle and bustle of New York.
“Things are going great,” Mendel said. “I actually like it out here, but it’s different from New York. It’s quiet and it’s a great town. There are a couple of really good restaurants and the people are really nice. And the campus is just beautiful.”
Yes, it’s a bit different than the Bronx as Lawrence boasts a population of just over 95,000 while the Bronx checks in at just a shade under 1.5 million.
And corner delis are, well, not on every corner. But Mendel has blended in quite nicely, even establishing a normal routine.
“I start my day by lifting weights at 8:30 a.m., and then I have a sports psychology class from 10:20 to 12:20,” said Mendel, the 6-foot-3 righthander who tossed 44 innings for Fieldston this past season, allowing just two runs while striking out 72.
“Then I play on a summer team in the afternoon.”
That summer team is the Topeka Golden Giants, and experience that so far has been golden for Mendel.
“I’ve been pitching well,” he said. “It’s been a really good experience facing collegiate hitters. They’re mostly Division II and (junior college) players, and it just continues to increase the level of competition that I’m facing, so I’ll be prepared to pitch next year in the Big 12.”
Mendel’s new coaches at Kansas have talked to him about his role in the upcoming season as well as what their plans are for him long term.
“I’m going to be a relief pitcher at KU,” said Mendel, who limited his Fieldston opponents to a meager .118 average this past season.
“So the most valuable thing about playing in this summer league has been getting experience out of the bullpen because I was a starter at Fieldston. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment, but their plan for me is to be a back-end guy.
“Maybe not right away, but if I pitch well they said I will have a meaningful role out of the bullpen, like middle relief and setup man. And as I get older, hopefully the closer’s role.”
Pretty lofty plans for a player who has yet to throw his first collegiate pitch.
With a fairly packed schedule already in Lawrence with classes, weightlifting and summer ball, do his days at Fieldston already feel like they were long ago?
“Yeah I was thinking about that in class the other day, and it does feel like a while ago,” Mendel said. “It’s much different here. I did really enjoy Fieldston. I loved playing for Coach (Tony) Marro. He had a huge impact on my baseball career and life in general. I’m definitely going to miss Fieldston baseball a lot and the people at Fieldston, but I’m ready for the future.”
Not all of Mendel’s impressive numbers have come on the baseball field. He was none too shabby in the classroom as well, leaving Fieldston with a 3.7 GPA. That led to him being selected to be part of an elite program at Kansas.
“I’m going to study finance in the business school and I’m also in the honors program,” Mendel said.
Yes, Mendel is fitting in nicely in his new home. And though it’s still more than seven months before Kansas begins its baseball season, Mendel can’t wait to get started.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Mendel said. “Everyone is good in the Big 12, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to competing because that’s what I love. Hopefully I’ll be able to have a meaningful role in the bullpen and pitch some competitive innings and give it my best.
“I know if I pitch well in the Big 12 it will lead to good things down the road.”