Q&A with Rangers 2nd Round Pick Tom Mendonca

If the Rangers came into the draft looking for a third baseman with a great glove and a power bat, they certainly got it with Tom Mendonca. The Fresno State product belted 27 home runs as a junior in 2008, and he reportedly signed with the Rangers on Monday. Lone Star Dugout caught up with Mendonca after the draft.

The Texas Rangers selected third baseman Tom Mendonca with their second-round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft.

Mendonca at Fresno State for three seasons, slugging 56 career home runs. The California native is also known for his superb defense at third base, and his glove helped him become a household name during the 2008 College World Series, in which he was named Most Outstanding Player.

A left-handed hitter, Mendonca had the best offensive season of his career as a junior in 2009, batting .339 with 27 home runs and 78 runs batted in.

According to multiple reports, Mendonca signed with the Rangers on Monday afternoon, and he is headed to Spokane to begin his professional career.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the slugger after the draft.

Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on getting drafted by the Rangers? What was going through your mind when they picked you?

Tom Mendonca: My thoughts were that I had no idea that they were going to draft me. I was kind of surprised, but it was a good surprise. I got a phone call from them and I was more than happy to accept. I mean, it's a privilege to be able to play, and now I'm going to be a Ranger. I'm very excited and very happy that this happened and that I'm a Ranger.

Cole: Was Butch Metzger the scout that drafted you?

Mendonca: Yeah, it was Butch.

Cole: Had you ever talked to him during the season or in the past?

Mendonca: Yeah. I talked to him maybe two or three times. That was it. I was surprised. It was just a big surprise. I had no idea, but it happened, and I'm happy.

Cole: The Rangers have one Fresno State guy already in the system in Justin Miller. And obviously Scheppers was drafted along with you. How do you like being able to go into a system with a couple of guys you've already played with before?

Mendonca: It's awesome. You figure that you'll never play with these guys again after college, and now you're playing with some teammates you've already played with. It feels like you're going into a place where you're a little more comfortable than some people that are put into it. It's kind of a benefit that I've played with two of the guys, and one has been in the system for a year. He knows how it's done and he can tell me how it's run and what to expect.

Cole: Going in the second round, is that about what you were expecting?

Mendonca: Yeah. I guess you could say that's where it was supposed to be. That's where people told me at the beginning of the year. It was the right spot for me at the end of the year. It was a plus for me.

Cole: Tell me about your game offensively. Can you talk about your approach at the plate and what you're trying to do when you're up there?

Mendonca: For Fresno, I was our big bat in the lineup. I was our power guy for doubles and home runs. Obviously with that, strikeouts come, and I struck out a lot throughout my career at Fresno State.

But this year was the same thing with more trying to cut back on the strikeouts so contact would be there. So it's not just doubles and home runs, but also singles at the right times. That was my offensive plan for Fresno State.

Defensively, it was just to help win ballgames with my glove. Make routine plays routine and try making every play I can for the team. That was my defensive role.

Cole: This year, you really cut down on your strikeouts and your walks pretty much doubled. Was that a mechanical change that helped or was it a different approach?

Mendonca: A little of both. The year before my sophomore year, I had no idea. I got so far caught between thinking, so I lost half a year. The first 25 games I might have had 50 or 60 strikeouts. Last year was different.

But this past year, my junior year, was a lot better. All I did was focus on hitting with my coach. We fixed some mechanical stuff, then we got the mental approach in. It helped. It helped for one year. It was a very good outcome for just one year of trying to fix it. So hopefully through the years it will be better—it will progress the way we'd like it to.

Cole: How much experience do you have with a wood bat and how have you felt with it?

Mendonca: I like wood. It takes a little while to get comfortable. I played in Alaska my freshman year and I've played on the national Team USA. It takes a little while to get used to, but I like it. I believe it's a more true fit for a baseball player. That ultimately shows what you can or can't do once you have wood in your hand. And I like that. It sticks apart the men from the boys. It really depends on what kind of hitter and I guess what kind of build you are, but I like wood bats. You're going to have to ultimately learn how to use a wood bat, so why not earlier in your age? I personally like wood bats.

Cole: A lot of people got to see your defense over the last couple of years, particularly in Omaha. How much pride do you take in being able to save runs with your glove?

Mendonca: It's good. Like I said, I strike out a lot, so I have to make up for it in a different area. I'll try winning ballgames with my glove. Saving runs—that one run that you could save on defense could be the game winner for them. There are areas that you're weak at and there are areas that you're strong at. For the strikeouts, I try making it up with my glove, and that's what I take pride in.

Cole: After the College World Series last year, people started comparing you to Brooks Robinson largely because of your defensive abilities. What do you think when you hear that?

Mendonca: That's the biggest compliment you can pay somebody. That's huge. He's the best third baseman ever, and it's nice to be compared to the elite players when you're in college. You just take that and keep your head up. You can stick your chest out a little farther when you get compared to somebody the caliber of him.

Cole: I can't go through this without talking about last year, especially around College World Series time. Just take me through that run that you guys went on last year, all the way from being the fourth-seeded team in the regional to winning the national title.

Mendonca: Before the regional, we were on the road for two weeks already. So we were on the road for six weeks altogether. It was a long, tiring run. But it got us prepared for the worst and the best. We went to Long Beach and, in a lot of peoples' opinion, we had the toughest regional there. We got out of that.

Then we had to go to the number two team in the nation—ASU—at ASU, when they were some ungodly number, like 28-1 at home. We were ranked 17 out of 16. So a team that was at home was better than us, and we were still playing. That was kind of weird. But we got in there—nobody had their money on us to get out of there. And sure enough, we got out of there.

That's about the time when we started to realize that we could really do this. We started clicking together and two weeks later in Omaha, we finally came home on the plane as the champs. It was nice. It was a great feeling. It shows that you don't have to have the most talent on the team or the big-name players. All you have to do is play as a team and you can get stuff done. That's what it comes down to. Baseball is a team sport—not the big-name players. We had fun doing it, and we wish we could've done it again this year, but we had a great season with all the young players this year.

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