Milwaukee Brewers pick up Bravos pitcher Mendez
Sabetha Bravos right-handed pitcher, Samuel Mendez, has been drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers .
A dream has become a reality for one Sabetha Bravos player. Twenty-eight-year-old Samuel Mendez has been drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft.
Road to the MLB
For some children, the dream of playing professional baseball typically starts when they are old enough to hold a bat, however this is not always the case. Sometimes, the hope to join the Major Leagues can start later in life, which was the road for Samuel.
Samuel grew up in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, and lived with his parents, Liboria De Lo Santo and Eladio Mendez De Jesus, and five brothers and six sisters.
Samuel played high school basketball, because that was the only sport in school. According to Samuel, baseball was always held outside of school, and he loved basketball more than baseball.
“I loved basketball and that’s why I didn’t start sooner,” Samuel said. “I started to play baseball at the age of 17.”
Samuel played semi-pro basketball for three years in the Dominican, before he decided to come to America to play baseball for Cisco College in Texas.
“I saw that there was not going to be any opportunities for me playing basketball in the Dominican,” Samuel said. “I saw that with baseball there was a good opportunity to do something special.”
While he still had a passion for basketball, at the age of 21, Samuel really started to think playing in the MLB was a possibility.
Samuel had just finished his freshman season at Cisco College, when he was invited to play baseball this summer for the Sabetha Bravos – one of six teams in the Mid-Plains League.
Bravos Head Coach Edgar Santos said he knew he needed Samuel on the Bravos team after watching him pitch for the first time.
“I have known him [Samuel] for over a year now,” Santos said. “I recruited him from Texas after I heard about ‘a player from the Dominican throwing 98 miles per hour at Cisco College.’ I attended one of his games to see if he could be an asset for our Bravos Team. That night he topped out 100 miles per hour. I signed him right away.”
While this was Samuel’s first year with the Sabetha Bravos, he was named pitcher of the week twice for the Mid-Plains League on back-to-back weeks.
At the end of the season and throughout this summer, Samuel was getting interest from multiple MLB teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers, the Boston Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Atlanta Braves, and the Texas Rangers.
During his time with the Sabetha Bravos, he pitched 31 innings, tallying 46 strike outs, and a 2.50 Earned Run Average (ERA).
2021 MLB Draft
The draft took place for three days – Sunday, July 11, through Tuesday, July 13. According to Samuel, the first two days he did not hear anything. On the last day of the draft, Samuel and his Sabetha host family – Jobi, Kyson and Tynlee Wertenberger – had the MLB app on, listening to the draft.
“We listened for several rounds, it was getting mid-afternoon, and Samuel said he was going to go downstairs and take a nap,” J. Wertenberger said. “Then at the end of the draft, the Brewers selected him in the 20th round – the 597th pick. Samuel was still downstairs sleeping. I think this fit perfect. While he was being drafted, he was taking a little nap!”
According to J. Wertenberger, Wilfredo Aguilar – the shortstop for the Bravos – texted Samuel and said he just saw that he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Samuel later did get a call from the Brewers welcoming him to the organization,” J. Wertenberger said.
According to MLB.com, Samuel is the oldest player to ever be drafted in the MLB. The MLB.com report also said that before Mendez, the MLB’s oldest draftee on record was Brodie Downs, a 27-year-old right-hander who, according to a Seattle Times feature, was working on his sister’s pool when he learned he’d been drafted by the Mariners in the 23rd round in 2007.
“I was beyond excited and almost could not believe it,” Samuel said of when he learned the Brewers had drafted him.
Santos said they are so proud of him and his hard work.
“He’s a hard worker and deserves this amazing opportunity,” Santos said. “I’m sure, he will go far in baseball and life. It’s been a great pleasure to work with him, as he’s really smart and a good leader for the team and young pitchers. He knows the game pretty well and always has good vibes.”
While in Sabetha
J. Wertenberger and his children – Kyson and Tynlee – were Samuel’s host family during his time in Sabetha with the Bravos.
Samuel said it has been amazing to live with the Wertenberger family for the past two months.
“It has been amazing with them; always involving me in anything and everything they have to offer,” Samuel said. “I have truly enjoyed living in their home the past two months, as they have taken me in as their own son.”
“Samuel has been a blessing in my home the past two months,” J. Wertenberger. “Even though we do have little bit of a language barrier, it has been incredible to get to know him. He has been great with my kids, going to their own baseball and basketball games this summer and cheering them on. He has truly invested in my family. I went into this thinking I was going to be helping him out, but I am truly the one that has been blessed!”
J. Wertenberger has been a “host dad” for the Sabetha Bravos for the past two years.
“It [being a host dad] has been an incredible experience for me and my family,” he said. “We have learned so much about other countries and their culture. I know every year the Bravos are looking for families in the Sabetha community, and I would say if you have ever thought about it, to go ahead and sign up next year. Edgar, the head coach, and Jo Grimes are great to work with if anything comes up.”
Samuel said that his time in Sabetha it has been good to him from the community and the Bravos organization.
“Being part of the Bravos has been a roller coaster ride, different emotions, different backgrounds, different styles of playing, but the same amount of fight in each player,” Samuel said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity from the team and the town. It has been a tremendous honor to be given the opportunity to come out and play in Sabetha, as well as have been drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers .”
Samuel will have to quarantine in Sabetha before the Brewers will send him on a plane from Kansas City to Arizona on Wednesday, July 21. Once there, Samuel complete a physical, the team will work him out, and then they will see where the next step in his journey will take him.
“I’m is so excited, and want to thank the people in Sabetha for this summer, and am very thankful for the Milwaukee Brewers for believing in me,” Samuel said.