Mengel’s senior speech came sooner than it should have
As a senior team captain, Brady Mengel was expecting to give his senior speech following the Mansfield University Senior Day game at the end of the season. With no notice, that speech was moved up to mid-March when the NCAA canceled all spring sports, shutting down the Mounties’ season after 12 games.
The speech turned out to be emotional and Mengel admits “crying my eyes out,” during the speech as his college baseball career came to an end.
This was supposed to be a season unlike any other. As a junior, his offensive numbers ticked up, giving him a lot of enthusiasm for the 2020 season. He was also going to be reunited with his younger brother, Brandon as a member of the Mounties baseball team.
The two played one season of high school ball together at Northwestern Lehigh and would get to repeat that this spring.
As a team captain, Mengel was using what he had learned in the Blue Mountain League to change the culture of the team and inject more of a relaxed atmosphere into the program.
“I had played for the Northampton Giants in the Blue Mountain League last summer and it’s a competitive league, but it’s still pretty loose and fun,” said Mengel. “That kind of brought me around to remembering to have more fun playing and to be a little looser. I think that helped my approach a lot because I was a lot more relaxed at the plate and I was seeing the ball really well this season.”
Mengel had launched an opening day home run to start the season and finished the first two games with three hits. He had a few tough games and his average dipped down to the .200 mark, but in March he had turned things around and was hitting .296 for the month with a six-game hitting streak, which brought his average back to .271 with the Mounties.
On March 13, the Mounties were set to open the league portion of their schedule with a three-game series against East Stroudsburg, but the coaches had told the team that the game was canceled but didn’t offer much of an explanation.
On what would have been the day of the opening game of the series, Mengel received a text from a player he knew at East Stroudsburg asking if the game was still on.
Before long, other texts started coming in from players around the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference with rumors that the entire season had been canceled.
“We kind of knew something was coming because the NBA had suspended their season and then when March Madness was canceled, we knew it would just be a matter of time,” said Brady Mengel. “It would have been nice to hear it from our coaches or the AD but instead we just heard it from a lot of other places before we had a meeting with the coaches later that night.”
One of the close bonds he had formed was with his double-play partner Josh Kulina, who transferred to Mansfield for the 2019 season and took over the team’s shortstop position.
Mengel and Kulina both played in all 40 games in 2019 and were looking forward to spending their senior season together. The two formed a strong defensive tandem on the middle infield and were a big part of the offense, with Kulina hitting .349 through 12 games.
“We’ve stayed in touch, but it’s really crazy,” said Brady Mengel. “We were really looking forward to the season together and now, we just talk back and forth to keep in touch, but it’s tough thinking about losing that relationship on the field.”
Of course, his relationship with Brandon continues, but that also is a reminder of what could have been. They had that one special season at Northwestern and were looking forward to another special season in Mansfield.
“I really wanted to be with Brandon this season and help him get used to things and show him how things worked at the college level,” Brady Mengel explained. “I’m really proud of him because we were really thin on pitching and he stepped up and pitched in a game, which is really rare for a freshman. It had been a long time, maybe 10 years since he had pitched, and he threw really well.”
Mengel is finishing out the academic portion of his college career with online courses. Since he lives off campus, he has stayed in Mansfield and is using his spare time to do some fishing and turkey hunting, but the campus is basically a ghost town.
“I stayed up here mainly for the fishing and hunting,” he said. “It’s just not how it was supposed to be.”