Colorado Rockies’ Old Friend: Denver Native Mark Melancon
Sep 13, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher M. Melancon (35) pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers during the ninth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 7-6 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Colorado Rockies are facing a Denver native every time the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town, and I’ve been on the Golden High School product for a while.
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On Tuesday night, Mark Melancon shut down the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of a 6-3 Pittsburgh Pirates victory for his league-leading 49th save of the season.
He’s been a great closer for quite a while (he has 118 career saves in nearly 400 career big league appearances with the Pirates, Yankees, Astros, and Red Sox) but I can guarantee you I’ve been inadvertently following Melancon long before you.
In the spring of 2003, I was starring (starring!) for the George Washington High School Patriots‘ baseball team in the Denver Prep League. We won the league title that year, I was named unanimous All-Denver Prep League first team, and we rolled into the State Tournament thinking we were a halfway decent team playing our home games at — I swear I’m not even kidding about this — Brian Bohanon Field.
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So one day in April of ’03, we went down to All-City Field, the DPL’s stadium catch-all for big league games, and hosted Golden High School… and starting pitcher Mark Melancon. I don’t remember the score, but I do remember Melancon absolutely shoving against us — and for a city league team, we were decent enough to where we should’ve been more competitive than what happened.
For Melancon, I remember that being a coming out party. It was unexpected, because no one had ever heard from him in that way before. Golden went deeper into the State Tournament, Melancon went on to the University of Arizona to play, I made my way to the other end of the country at Davidson College, and before we all knew it, he was in the big leagues (and here I am…).
Every player develops differently. Some guys are prospects from about the time they’re 14 years old. Others only find their way once they get to the big leagues, late round draft picks or overlooked minor leaguers who suddenly improve once they turn 28 or 30 years old. Melancon underwent a lot of development after that day for Golden High School (hell, he was throwing 86 mph in ’03, so he clearly got stronger at Arizona and then in pro ball).
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But our perspectives of players are also colored by how and when we first saw them, and when they first make an impression on us, no matter the level or location. Every time I see Mark Melancon, I think back to that game against Golden, and I think man, that’s when that guy got his start, his career really took off from there.
Of course, it didn’t. He was (a) already on the rise considering U of A’s offer, and (b) miles away from developing into a pro. But perception is a funny and intensely subjective thing. Crossing paths at different times, in different leagues, and at different levels completely colors what any analyst thinks about any player.
Hunt on, Mark Melancon. You’re welcome for all the work I did to help your career take off on that fateful day back in 2003. (Kidding.)