- Parker Brown
First Season with the Same Team
As the 2023 Olivet College baseball season starts, Olivet has found itself with a newly appointed coach, Santiago Mendez. His players like to call him “Santi,” as they have already built a relationship with him. He has changed the culture of the team just through his attitude alone.
The team had a mildly slow start to the season, going 0-6. Some players shared what they are seeing with the culture shift as they learn to pick the coach’s brain.
Sophomore infielder Blake Hawkins said, “I think [Mendez] has made the culture here a lot more positive and uplifting. Not bashing our previous coach at all, but the positivity was just not there with him. Santi already has made players, like me, more confident in my play and have a more positive outlook when we fail.”
Hawkins said, “‘So what, next pitch’ is his motto and [our players] really bought into that, and you can see it early on through these first [few] games. I think those few things have really been the biggest change [that] he has brought to the team.”
Mendez isn’t unfamiliar with the atmosphere of Olivet College as he was an assistant coach at Olivet for three seasons, working as the pitching and the third base coach. He graduated in 2018 from Gannon University in Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and marketing.
Mendez said, “Coaching has taught me that everyone is different. Building the right relationships with each individual is something I take pride in. A cookie-cutter approach to that will not be beneficial at all.”
Those who have been a part of their sport for a long time grow to love the game. Mendez said, “Baseball means everything to me. There are a lot of events that occur in games that you can reference in everyday life. How we go through adversity in games is how I want my guys to handle adversity in their lives outside of baseball.” These lessons, Mendez said, helped him to coach young players.
Senior outfielder Sylas Woll played with Mendez when he first got to Olivet. He said, “I think we’ve been playing with a lot more freedom. [There are] still some growing pains but that’s expected.”
With the baseball team yet to play a home game, Mendez has a positive outlook on what he expects for his return. He said, “My anticipation for the first home game is we bring a positive attitude, have high intensity, and use their maximum effort. If we do that, then we can come away with a victory.”