Before 2009: Mendoza enjoyed a 12-year professional career, and he spent the first six seasons of it in the San Francisco Giants organization, topping out with a brief stint in Triple-A in 2003. After playing with Pensacola in an independent league for two and a half seasons, Mendoza was picked up by the Yankees midway through the 2006 season and was assigned to High-A Tampa.
He spent all of 2007 with the Thunder, and played in 84 games en route to helping Trenton win their first Eastern League championship. While he was used substantially less in 2008 (30 games) and was frequently put on the phantom DL, his numbers improved and he was a valuable component of the bench in the Thunder’s second of back-to-back championships.
2009: Mendoza started the season in Double-A Trenton, and was somewhat surprisingly summoned to Triple-A Scranton approximately two weeks into the season. He played three games in his first call-up to Triple-A in five years, and would appear in eight games with Trenton as well. In 356 at-bats with the Thunder, Mendoza was never able to hit a home run…but he did manage to make an appearance on the mound in May.
After 2009: First and foremost, Mendoza was an absolute pleasure to cover. I can’t even begin to count how many times I had to ask him to translate interviews for me with Spanish-speaking players, and he’d always do it without complaining. Guys like that are simply invaluable to reporters, and he’d often go out of his way to help me. On the field, I think his contributions were overlooked…he was a very solid, capable infielder who was always solid whenever he was asked to play. He was a good influence on the younger Latin players as well, and the fact that his locker was near theirs was likely not a coincidence.
Following his unofficial retirement of sorts last season, where he joined Staten Island’s coaching staff in 2009, he’ll spend 2010 as the Charleston Riverdogs first base coach.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com