By Rick Assad
It seems once the baseball bug has bitten you, it’s something that can linger for years.
It’s done that to Louis Mele, a four-year resident of Burbank, who has played baseball at three different levels, including the minor leagues for the Sioux Falls Canaries of the American Association and the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League.
“Playing baseball at the high school, college and professional level were some of the best moments of my life,” said the 2013 graduate of Island Trees High in Levittown, New York. “I made lifelong friends and unforgettable memories. But most importantly it helped keep me focused in the classroom, because as a student-athlete you must maintain a specific grade-point average in order to keep your eligibility to play.”
Mele was smart enough and aware enough of his surroundings to be a sponge.
“Overall, my coaches and teammates have taught me valuable life skills that I still use to this day, such as work ethic, strong communication skills, a team orientated mindset, time management skills and paying attention to detail,” he pointed out.
After being a four-year starter and the primary third baseman along with being a catcher in high school, Mele earned a full scholarship to the New York Institute of Technology, which is a member of the NCAA Division I, and where he was the starting third baseman and a key figure in the Bears’ lineup.
In Mele’s four-year stint, he batted .305 with 100 runs batted in and slashed 15 homers.
Mele earned NCAA Division I Rawlings All-Region Team Honors and was the Senior Male Athlete of the Year Award winner.
Presently, Mele, who batted over .500 as a senior in high school and was named All-New York state, has been a coach and is running the Mele Made baseball camps in the Burbank area since 2018.
“I run these camps in both the summer and winter to offer professional coaching to local players looking to elevate their skills and mindset,” he said. “My camps are focused around teaching the game the right way while also having fun. I work to teach techniques and skills that players can utilize and implement for the rest of their playing careers.”
Additionally, Mele has volunteered and given back to the community after being told a Burbank Little League team needed a head coach, and without one its season would have been canceled.
If one is interested in finding out more about Mele’s baseball camps, they can go to www.melemade.com.
It’s because of his love of the game and how he was taught to play baseball properly that has propelled Mele to teach it to others.
“What I have learned as a player that has helped me as a coach is how important it is for coaches to know their players and truly care about them as human beings,” he said. “I have played for many coaches during my career and the great coaches have always made sure to take the time to connect with their players. I believe this is one of the most important parts of being a coach.”
No doubt that winning is Mele’s goal, but it’s how you get there that matters.
“At the end of the day winning is important, but the most important thing is that I am here to help build players’ confidence and turn them into leaders on and off the field,” he said. “Having a coach that truly believes in you and wants the best for you on and off the field can change a kid’s life.”
The pandemic hasn’t made Mele’s job any easier. “COVID-19 has affected millions of people around the world, including me,” he said. “Not being able to be on the field doing what I love took a huge mental toll on not only myself, but so many other coaches and athletes. I have always battled adversity in my life and baseball career, so it was nothing new to me.”
Mele found a way to rally and succeed despite this awful virus. “After being shut down for several months, I bounced back better than ever and started up my own elite 13-and-under travel baseball team based in Burbank called the Los Angeles Legacy,” he explained. “My team has grown tremendously and I have been able to help impact many young athletes in a positive way during a time of so much doubt and uncertainty. It is bigger than baseball; I am helping these kids get through such a difficult time by bringing them the simple joy of being on the baseball field with their friends, playing the game they love.”
Mele took to the game at a tender age because of his grandfather, Tony Mele, and his older brother, Anthony Mele.
“My baseball journey started when I was old enough to hold a baseball bat, which was around five years old,” he noted. “My grandfather was a minor league baseball player and also played baseball in the United States Army. My older brother also played, so I was always around the game ever since I can remember. Having people who I looked up to play baseball helped spark the love that I now have for the game of baseball.”
Baseball is a humbling game and the wise ones know how to make the best of that situation.
“What appeals to me about the game of baseball is how you fail more times than you succeed and you are still considered a great player,” Mele said.
Even Hall of Fame ballplayers like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle failed to reach base via a base hit two-thirds of the time.
“A great player can get one hit for every three at-bats, which is failing two out of three times and still have a .333 batting average,” he said. “A .300 batting average is considered elite and that’s failing more times than succeeding. That simple fact is the reason why I love this game.”
Mele compared hardball to everyday occurrences. “In life we are often faced with hard situations and sometimes fail,” he said. “But it’s not about how many times you fail, it’s about how many times you fail and pull yourself back up and keep trying. Overcoming and working through your failures is exactly what baseball teaches and it’s all about committing and giving 110 percent in everything you do.”
It also helped having worked alongside Craig Sherwood, the longtime baseball mentor and coach.
“Coaching under Craig Sherwood was great! He was a very caring man and truly wanted what was best for each and every player,” he said. “He strived to make practices and games fun for the kids and valued discipline.”
Mele’s duties were varied, but were extremely helpful. “My role under Coach Sherwood was as the assistant varsity coach,” he said. “I helped him with everyday operations like assisting in running practice plans, throwing batting practice and working on players fundamentals. I also was the third base coach during games.”
Mele’s best day as a player came at the professional level and it still resonates.
“My biggest thrill playing baseball was hitting a home run to center field in my first ever professional baseball game,” he said. “You can find the video on YouTube if you search Louis Mele Baseball. Hitting that home run was a confirmation that all my dedication and hard work work had paid off.”
And while that homer is in the past, what Mele’s doing by running baseball camps and coaching is also proof that his hard work is still being paid off.