As fans filed into Hammons Field for the series-finale against Wichita, Springfield Cardinals’ infielder Noah Mendlinger paused his pregame routine.
“I go out and do my stretch, one of the first things I do is look at the stadium, look at the crowd – I never thought I’d be in this situation,” he said. “I try to take it in, every moment I can.”
But the Cards’ undrafted free-agent from Georgia College & State University (NCAA-Div. II) isn’t just enjoying the scenery in Double-A, he’s thriving on the field and that Sunday was no exception.
Mendlinger blasted a two-run homer over the right-field wall in the fourth inning – an exclamation point on his performance in the final week of May (.444 average, 3 extra-base hits, 5 RBIs) that earned Texas League Player of the Week honors. His walk-off single with the bases loaded on May 25 gave Springfield a 5-4 win.
Entering play this weekend, the Atlanta-area native is slashing .342/.420/.526 with three home runs and 17 RBIs since he was promoted from Peoria on May 9.
“He’s a grinder, he’s earned a spot here,” Springfield manager Jose Leger said.
“He hasn’t been overwhelmed by the (Texas) league at all – he’s taking advantage of every opportunity that’s given to him.”
Leger also played baseball at Georgia College & State, a small school in Milledgeville, Georgia, in the early 2000s. When he speaks about Mendlinger, it’s clear he sees himself in the 5-foot-9, 22-year-old:
“Grinder”, “chip on his shoulder”, “hungry”, “guy like Brendan Donovan”.
“When things are going well, I’m spraying the ball all over the field,” Mendlinger said. “Trying to limit the strikeouts…that’s my least favorite thing to do, make that slow walk back to the dugout.”
“That’s something the Cardinals kind of preach – part of the Cardinal Way is grinding out at-bats.”
There is another side of Mendlinger’s game that’s easily observed: he’s loose, carefree, and having fun.
Mendlinger pitched a no-hitter for Alpharetta High School against the eventual Georgia state champs while “drinking Dr. Pepper the whole game.”
After his spending his first full pro season in Peoria last year, Mendlinger joined Team Israel for the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
“We stayed in a super nice hotel, police escorts to the game – it was awesome. I felt like a big leaguer for the week, for sure.”
Israel played in Miami against Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic and Mendlinger relished “being the away team every game.”
“It was cool to be in that environment and to have that Latin culture down there…the P.A. announcer, whoever is in charge of the music and all that, they were playing into those fans.”
Springfield (26-28) won the first three games against Northwest Arkansas this week and sits in third place in the Texas League North division. Mendlinger hopes to stay hot and help the Cards (9.0 games back) close the gap with division leaders Tulsa and Arkansas.
It can only help his transition to Double-A to have a manager with shared roots. When Leger turned 41 on May 19, Georgia College & State posted birthday wishes on social media.
“He showed me, he pulled me aside and we had a good little talk about Milledgeville,” Mendlinger said.