Four generations of baseball
There’s a popular t-shirt that features the saying “baseball is life. The rest is just details.”
For the Mengel family, the shirt should probably be amended to say “Northwestern Lehigh baseball is life...”
This year’s starting second baseman Brandon Mengel isn’t the first in his family to play for the team. Before him came his older brother, Brady, who played second base and shortstop for the team and is currently playing second base at Mansfield University. Their father, Jason Mengel was the shortstop on the 1989 team that captured the first District 11 championship in the school’s history. Take that back to Jason’s dad, Richard, who was also a shortstop for the team and connect it all to Brandon and Brady’s great-grandfather, Russell Stoudt, who started the program in the late 1950s.
The connections don’t end there though. Every one of the Mengels played either shortstop, second base or both. Most of the family is also connected to longtime Northwestern coach Len Smith, who took over as the head coach in 1983 and led the team to their first district championship in 1989 and also to four league championships. Smith’s tenure covered the playing career of Jason and Brady Mengel and with his return to the team as a volunteer assistant under current coach Duran Porrino, Brandon Mengel is also being tutored by Smith.
“I grew up with baseball all around, I was kind of born into baseball,” said Brandon. “My brother played and I was always going to his games. It’s just sort of a family thing. I’ve always looked up to my dad and looked up to my grandfather and they gave me a lot of advice while I was growing up.”
While the youngest members of the family don’t have much memory of the patriarch of the clan, who literally started the whole thing, the legacy is well known in the family and a source of pride that has carried through the years.
“I don’t really remember him much, but I know about him and his legacy,” said Brandon about his great-grandfather and the origins of Northwestern Lehigh baseball. “I’ve heard many stories about my dad and my grandfather. There are some great stories. It’s really a blessing to have my dad and my grandfather and my brother all play for the same team and basically play the same position. It’s really something that I won’t get to experience again, so I’m going to take advantage of it.”
The part of the legacy that includes Smith as the coach is something that Jason Mengel also points to with pride. Having played for Smith and holding high thoughts and praise for him, having his former coach get to work with both of his kids makes the memories that much sweeter.
“It was cool for both kids,” said Jason Mengel of Smith’s tenure. “It was a sense of pride and a sense of longevity and baseball is something that we take seriously and we take a lot of pride in. It’s just a huge honor to have Brandon coached by coach Smith, too.”
“I’ve always enjoyed my time here,” said Smith. “There is a real tradition behind the program and a real connection and they’re part of that. You know you’ve been around a long time when you’re coaching the kids of former players.”
Smith isn’t the only one coaching the younger players in the family. Jason and Richard Mengel, who often attend games at Northwestern, offered plenty of direction to Brady when he was at Northwestern and they continue to give Brandon critiques of his play along with stories of the good old days at Northwestern.
“The old days are all I hear about,” said Brandon with a laugh. “As soon as the game is over, I have to hear a couple negatives. That’s how dads are and how grandfathers are, but I know that they know what they’re talking about and it helps improve my playing style to hear those things.”
Brady and Brandon are starting their own connection in the college ranks. Having played together in high school for one season, the two will be reunited next season at Mansfield University with Brady being a senior and Brandon joining the team as a freshman.
It’s way too early to start thinking about the next crop of Mengels to play for Northwestern. You have to believe though that when the time comes there will be more members of the Mengel family running onto a baseball field and taking their positions in the middle infield for Northwestern.