Not that it’s been a problem, but Jeff Mejia won’t need to worry about creating a strong work ethic on his perennial powerhouse Northern Essex Community College baseball team for the upcoming year.
All he needs to do is send his son, Jeff Jr., onto the practice field and let him do his thing.
It’s a new luxury for the Northern Essex coach because Jeff Jr. has transferred to play for his father after two years at UMass Lowell, the last of which was a red-shirt year that makes him eligible to play for the Knights in 2019-2020.
“He will add a lot to our team, the biggest being his leadership and work ethic,” said the seven-year coach. “He’s always worked extremely hard at the game, looking to improve. His work ethic is outstanding and when other guys see him giving 110% at everything, it rubs off.”
Adding his talent to the lineup will also be a big plus of course. A terrific leadoff hitter and centerfielder, Jeff Jr. was All-Cape Ann League at North Reading and, as a junior, hit .419 and led the region with 31 runs scored.
At UMass Lowell, the younger Mejia didn’t get much playing time but his skills have hardly faded as he showed this summer playing for the Elmira (N.Y.) Pioneers in the Perfect Game Collegiate League. He hit .331 and stole 14 bases, walking 26 times for an impressive .458 on-base percentage.
Although he certainly would have liked to have played more than he did at UMass Lowell, that was not the main impetus for the move to Northern Essex.
“Having the opportunity to play with my dad again is a pretty rare thing,” said Jeff. Jr. “That and I want to pursue a career in the military so it’d be better to go to a military school.
“Being in the military is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. If I go to a military school, I can come out as an officer.
“Playing for my dad is going to be good. I’ve played for him a lot of my life and there’s a familiarity there. He knows my strengths.”
Jeff Sr., of course, is thrilled to have his son on the team and it’s a key addition to a roster that lost its top five hitters and eight of its of top nine, either by graduation or, in the case of Spence Brown, to the major league draft. But he is far from the only significant addition to the team.
“I think we’ll be like Transfer U.,” said Mejia Sr. “We’ve got some real talent on the team and I don’t think we’ll lose much if anything when we take the field.”
In addition to Mejia, transfers who have joined the Knights are Kyle Priest (SNHU), John Prentice (New England College) and John Fargo (UMass Boston) and pitchers Eduardo Guzman (Waubonsee Community College) and James Cardello (NHTI).
From last year, Haverhill’s Dallas Vaughn appears completely recovered from Tommy John surgery and will be a key addition to the staff, while Amesbury’s Levi Burrill is also back after sitting out the year with an injury.
Among the freshmen are Haverhill’s Tyler McDonald and fellow pitchers William Stickney (Malden), Alex Sweeney (Raymond, N.H.), Thomas Cattaneo (Mansfield, Conn.) and Clay Campbell (Goffstown). They’ll join top returnee Ronald Luke (6-0, 3.86 ERA) in what should be a vastly improved pitching staff
Promising outfielders include Lowell’s Edgar Velasquez, who was Lowell High’s all-time hit leader, and Amesbury’s Logan Burrill.
Joining top returning hitter Dylan Duval (.343) in the catching ranks are Adam Braid (Malden Catholic) and Jeremy Gray (Dracut).
“I think we’ll be in good shape,” said coach Mejia. “We lost a lot but I think we have the kids to fill in and our pitching should be stronger.”