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My Glory Days: Junior Mejia, Atlantic City High School, 2003

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher To young boys across America, an old sock is, well, an old sock. To young boys in Santiago, Dominican Republic, and old sock can be turned into a baseball. Put a rock inside the sock, wrap some tape around it, tear a branch off a nearby tree or grab an old broom handle and you have yourself a baseball game. That’s how Junior Mejia was introduced to the game of baseball as a youngster. Playing stickball in the streets of Santiago with a tree branch and a taped-up sock. Hey, when you love baseball, you do what you have to do. “We used to get out there, ya know, just kids being kids. We’d play out on the street and that was our ballpark,” Mejia said. Mejia, a native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, is a second-grade teacher at Texas Avenue School in Atlantic City and also an assistant coach for the high school's varsity team. Mejia, a native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, is a second-grade teacher at Texas Avenue School in Atlantic City and also an assistant coach for the high school’s varsity team. “Brent and the other coach, Bill Glose, between the three of us I think we have what we need to put out a successful program,” Mejia said. “Not to take anything away from any of the players in the past, but I think this year – more than any other year – the players bought into what we were trying to do and they responded well. They wanted to play for us, and for each other, and when you have those kinds of kids it makes it a lot easier to coach.” Mejia said being involved as a high school coach is particularly gratifying for him because it reminds him of how he improved as a player and how coaches and mentors helped him grow from a boy into a man. “It’s neat. Especially watching the young guys develop because it brings me back to how I developed as a player,” Mejia said. “And it makes you feel good because you have some guys come in maybe not knowing much about the game and it’s good to see how they work at it and how they improve. “High school is very important, not only to develop as a player but also your academics. Overall, high school is part of the equation, so it’s very important.” Mejia said one of the best moments of his high school career came in his sophomore year, when he launched a game-winning home run in the 13th inning against Buena Regional. “It was almost like everything just went into a fog. You get so excited, you don’t even realize what just happened. That was one of the most memorable moments of my high school career,” Mejia said. “It’s a pretty good feeling. Being able to get the game-winning hit, scoring the game-winning run, things like that will get you going. If you don’t get excited for that, then obviously you don’t have the passion for the game.” Perhaps what is most impressive about Mejia is not his exploits on the baseball field, but rather his perspective on life and what’s important. Recently Mejia’s house was broken into, and one of his most prized possessions – his 2007 national championship ring – was one of the items stolen. “No matter what your situation is now, for anybody it can always change and it’s up to you to do it. At the end of the day it’s up to you. You’re going to determine what’s going to happen in your life. You have the choice,” Mejia said. “You’re going to hit some bumps in the road. If you fall, you just have to get back up and keep going. I just had my house broken into and had about $3,000 worth of stuff stolen, even my (championship) ring was stolen. But you know what? I could sit here and feel bad for myself, but at the end of the day life goes on. Unfortunately it’s something I worked so hard to get, but there are people out there going through worse stuff. So you just have to continue to go forward and living life.”

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